Obama's "Ban on Cloning"

Tuesday, March 24, AD 2009

As arguments raged over Obama’s executive order to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research a few weeks ago, the administration’s pro-life defenders emphasized that this was only a small incremental step beyond the Bush administration policy and that the Obama administration would be very careful in examining the ethical issues and most especially would not allow the production of cloned embryos.

The problem is that, as shown by an extended debate between Doug Kmiec and Robert P. George on the US News “God & Country” blog, current policy far from banning cloning, will encourage it. (HT: Mary Meets Dolly, one of the best resources for serious Catholics on genetics related ethical and scientific issues.)

Obama’s statement was:

And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.

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5 Responses to Obama's "Ban on Cloning"

  • Here is the thing; even without ESCR you will have issues of cloning involved with non-ESCR. I think most people neglect that. Indeed, I still find normal stem cell (non-embryonic) to be morally questionable, and we are going too far too quick without reasoning it out.

    Moreover, since both Obama and McCain supported ESCR, it is clear this is a cultural issue, and not just partisan. I think we need to fix the culture, and maybe the candidates will change because of it, don’t you?

  • Here is the thing; even without ESCR you will have issues of cloning involved with non-ESCR. I think most people neglect that. Indeed, I still find normal stem cell (non-embryonic) to be morally questionable, and we are going too far too quick without reasoning it out.

    Actually, to my knowledge, non-embryonic stem cell research does not involve cloning. Cloning is specifically the creation of a new embryo (a new human being) with DNA matching that of another human being by transfering the DNA of the “parent” human being into a fertilized egg cell. The non-embryonic stem cell methodologies out there involve taking stem cells extracting from a living person and culturing those stem cells so that they grow on their own. No egg is used, and no embryo is created.

    Moreover, since both Obama and McCain supported ESCR, it is clear this is a cultural issue, and not just partisan. I think we need to fix the culture, and maybe the candidates will change because of it, don’t you?

    They did both support ESCR to an extent, and that was a very grave problem with both candidates. However, to my knowledge, McCain did not support embryo creation via cloning/SCNT, while Obama supports it. Since the use of cloning allows the creation of large numbers of human embryos with the express purpose of destroying them through use, I think it’s fair to consider Obama’s position on this worse even though McCain’s was bad.

    I do strongly agree that we need to change the culture on this issue, which is why I think it’s important that knowledgeable voices make it clear that SCNT/”theraputic cloning” is in fact cloning, and that we should at a purely humanistic level find the production of human beings for research and “spare parts” to be an offense against human dignity. That is why this should be an important teaching moment, and why I think Robert P. George’s contribution in the linked exchange on a major secular news site was of great help, while Kmiec’s dissembling was clearly not.

  • Obama on Embryonic Stem Cell Research & Cloning (from Mirror of Justice):

    1. Was an original sponsor of the bill to overturn President Bush’s funding policy (http://obama.senate.gov/press/070411-obama_renews_su/).

    2. Was a co-sponsor of the misleadingly named “Human Cloning Ban Act of 2005,” which, if passed, would have protected cloning-for-biomedical research, and would have required the destruction of all human embryos created by cloning, on pain of federal criminal law (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.1520:).

    3. As a member of the Illinois General Assemby, he voted against a ban on all forms of human cloning (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/votehistory/srollcalls92/920SB0493_03292001_041000T.PDF ).

    4. Most shocking, he voted against a bill in the United States Senate that would have authorized increased funding for recently developed forms of stem cell research that do not require the use and destruction of human embryos, despite the fact that such research has captured the imagination of the scientific community both for its efficacy and moral neutrality, and despite the fact that the bill in no way precluded funding for embryo destructive research (http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=1&vote=00128 ).

  • The 2005 movie, The Island is about this very thing, creating human clones for spare parts. Scary stuff, but a great movie.

  • Henry K.,

    normal stem cell (non-embryonic) to be morally questionable

    how so? The Church seems to be supportive of this adult stem cell therapies.

Should The State Get Out of the Marriage Business?

Wednesday, March 18, AD 2009

As people wait for the results of the California Supreme Court’s review of Prop 8, Douglas Kmiec and one of his Pepperdine Law collegues have put out a proposal that the government get out of the marriage business entirely, and instead bestow “civil union” certificates on households of any configuration or persuasion.

Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.

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27 Responses to Should The State Get Out of the Marriage Business?

  • Just to be clear, you’re advocating that the government recognize what we call “natural marriage” because that is the only path that respects both marital dignity and does not allow — on a widescale — activity and arrangements sanctioned by the state as permissible when it contradicts our basic human nature? Yes? If so, I agree.

  • Yes.

    I suppose to be really precise: I’m saying that we as Catholics should advocate that the state define marriage as what we recognize as “natural marriage”.

    We shouldn’t just cede the point and say, “It doesn’t matter what the state calls marriage or if there even is a civil marriage, because we as Catholics define marriage in our own sacramental way which isn’t the same as civil marriage.”

    Because we as Catholics see natural marriage as a moral good and potential channel of grace, we should exert all possible efforts to keep marriage as it is recognized by the boarder society in keeping with our understanding of natural marriage.

  • How would the civil acknowledgement of permanent, gay unions actually do harm natural marriages?

  • is that a real question?

  • Yes. Based on DCs explicit reasoning, the question is still not answered.

    This says nothing one way or the other about my own beliefs on the matter.

  • How would the civil acknowledgement of permanent, gay unions actually do harm natural marriages?

    I’m not sure that’s exactly the right question. My claim isn’t that “gay marriage” would hurt natural marriages (as in, couples with natural marriages) but rather that from a Catholic point of view we should seek to maintain in the wider society a cultural understanding of marriage which is as close as possible to the Catholic understanding of natural marriage.

    Natural marriage is just that: Natural. A pair of human mates. And so as such it’s necessarily between a man and a woman.

    So my reason why it would be problematic to acknowledge gay unions as if they were marriages is that it sends the wrong cultural message as to what marriage is. And when people have a wrong understanding of what a fundamental social institution is, it will end up hurting them and society as a whole.

  • Mark,

    If the state sanctions something, it is considered to be a right, or a good. We would, in effect, be recognizing all couples as equal, when in a sense a same-sex union is not equal to a heterosexual union, though all people are equal in dignity. It is a false anthropological and ontological presumption.

    It is the epitome of relativism in that everyone vows to kill the debate rather than find the moral virtue to debate toward the truth in a civil manner. The sense of peace is a false one, based entirely on a false premise — that all unions are equal and that the state should make no sort of moral presumptions.

    Additionally, these unions are what creates families and it will open the wrong door in the debate over gay adoption. If the state treats all couples equally, then there is no reason why gays should be prevented from adopting; at best, religious and private institutions wouldn’t have to participate. In essence, the common good is entirely undermined. Revelation set aside, it occurs to me as a homosexual, that the psychological and sociological evidence have not confirmed (nor as a Catholic trusting in the truths of my faith do I suspect they will) that children being raised by same-sex parents will grow up no differently than children raised by parents of the opposite sex — which reflects the natural design in which children are biologically created. In some sense, children are reaffirmed as commodities that people have a “right” to and not as precious gifts. The reason that our culture is suffering right now is particularly founded in our misunderstanding of marriage and family — from the intrinsic feature of bearing and rearing children as a part of married life. Our contraceptive mentality has opened the door to see marriage just as a personal fulfillment with no intrinsic obligations as MM suggested and the result is, there should be no reason to exclude anyone from it.

    The point is this: if we were to have the state adopt a marriage neutral stance, we would be at the point of America over a generation ago when contraception was introduced as a moral-neutral choice for couples, which has done nothing but spiral into an out of control erosion of the family and marital dignity.

    The solution to our cultural struggle doesn’t strike me as a compromise more interested in “peace,” in the sense that no one argues or debates about it, but rather to seek by just means, a recognition of this basic natural institution of marriage that is knowable to some extent by reason. For if we continue to allow our culture to ignore and deny the existence of fundamental truths, we further obscure our sense of God and human nature and are only failing ourselves in trying to save as many souls as possible by relativizing the truth for the sake of not arguing about it.

    Such relativism is already expressed in the terrible misconceptions of American legal positivism. In the Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, it was stated in the ruling that: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This may in fact be the moment where relativism was in itself enshrined into law, where the autonomous man now is convinced that we have the right to define — not discover — the truths, moral or otherwise, of the universe. Unless we are willing to admit that there are moral truths written onto the very fabric of our human nature and live according to them, there will be no true human flourishing and we only damn ourselves, if not by God’s mercy in the next life, certainly with more problems and moral qualms in this one.

  • Although I agree that the state OUGHT to affirm only natural, opposite-sex marriage as “marriage,” I also believe that given the state of current legal precedent, legal recognition of same-sex marriage is probably inevitable, barring some kind of miracle.

    In fact, civil marriage as we know it today already has lost all of the elements Catholic teaching says are essential to marriage — permanency, fidelity, and openness to children. No-fault divorce killed the first two elements, and abortion/contraception killed the third.

    Personally I think it was no-fault divorce (which freed couples of having to prove some kind of justifying serious reason to divorce, and allowed them to dissolve marriages by mutual consent, or simply at the whim of whichever spouse wanted out), rather than contraception (which, let’s face it, a lot of couples probably practiced on the sly anyway), that really started marriage on a downhill slide. No-fault divorce makes marriage one of the few, if perhaps the only, legal contract that CANNOT be enforced against the party that wants to break it.

    DC, you argue that recognizing gay unions “sends the wrong cultural message” regarding what marriage is. I say, no-fault divorce already did that. The horse is, in essence, already out the barn door.

    With that in mind, I could accept some kind of arrangement under which everyone — gay, straight, platonic or whatever — can legally enter a civil union or partnership that makes the participants each other’s next of kin, and is not called “marriage”, as a lesser evil to simply being forced to recognize same-sex unions as legal “marriage.”

    A complete separation between religious and civil marriage — such as exists in other countries where religiously observant couples go through two ceremonies and clergy do not sign off on marriage licenses or certificates — may end up being necessary if only to protect religious marriage from the encroachment of the state, which will, I am sure, eventually demand that anyone who performs legal, state-sanctioned marriages must not “discriminate” against gay couples.

  • Heck, if the state is going to get out of the marriage business, why go half way? Really get out of it–no civil marriage, no civil unions, no joint tax filing, no marriage penalty, no civil divorce, no guaranteed inheritance. Require everybody not related by blood who wants to form a partnership of any kind to go through the trouble of enshrining it in legal conracts and powers of attorney. Leave “marriage” to the churches, where it might actually mean something. Fewer people will marry–but chances are fewer will divorce.

  • Elaine’s right about no-fault–that’s what started this on the slide to hell. The real battle needs to be a gradual rollback of no-fault.

    I somewhat sympathize with cminor’s idea, but I’d like to try something else first–a two-tiered marriage system, like that which exists in at least one State (which one escapes me). Namely, you have (1) the old, broken no-fault system and (2) “covenant” (IIRC) marriage, which is fault oriented, and much more rigorous and difficult to end, especially where there are children. I also believe that there are more benefits for couples who choose the old route. You could call the latter marriage and leave the rotted-out no-fault system for “civil union” status.

    [As an aside, the no-fault system has always been why the so-called “conservative case for gay marriage” has been a flight of fantasy–it’s domestication powers are clapped out, let alone trying to transform a subculture.]

    The state still has an interest in marital bonds for reasons wholly independent of marriage, starting with those “new citizens” we call children, property, inheritance and the like. It’s grown organically for a reason. If you go to a pure partnership/contract system, you are ultimately proposing another social revolution, more sweeping than no fault divorce, with unforeseeable consequences. “What can it hurt?” is one of the more horrifying phrases in history.

  • Don’t mind me, Dale–I had my snark on. Is it Arkansas that has covenant marriage?

  • cminor:

    Yes, I think it is Arkansas.

    Oh, and don’t sweat the snark. It’s not like I never use it. 🙂

  • DP- don’t forget corollary to “what could it hurt,” as postulated by M. Shea:

    ‘How were we supposed to know?”

  • DC, you argue that recognizing gay unions “sends the wrong cultural message” regarding what marriage is. I say, no-fault divorce already did that. The horse is, in essence, already out the barn door.

    Elaine, I recognize the point that no fault divorce and contraception have already hollowed out civil marriage and left it with little resemblance to natural marraige, but I think it probably goes too far. Allow me to indulge in thinking out loud a bit here:

    It strikes me that the idea of natural marriage boils down to saying: mating matters. When a human person forms a mating bond (to sound all nature special-ish, if you don’t mind — it’s the Darwin coming out in me) the Church says that that person incurs certain moral and social obligations to fidelity and openness to life whether that person realizes it or not. (And indeed, whether that person is “married” in any formal sense or not. It strikes me this even applies to common law marriage type situations.)

    Now, since the Church holds that when you start a mate relationship with someone, you incur the moral obligations of natural marriage, it would seem logical from a Catholic that it would be good for both individuals and society if society sends the message that entering such a relationship comes with those obligations.

    However, a great many societies throughout world history (and virtually all non-Christian) have allowed some sort of divorce — though in some societies it has been very much frowned upon. How much does that undermine the nature of marraige?

    I’m sure it undermines it, but I’m not sure how much. Marriage remains a relationship which is permanent unless some intervening force (a divorce) comes into play. It’s “natural” end point is death, though divorce than intervene and cut it off early. Thus the “happy ending” for marriage continues to be a “till death do us part” idea, even if half the actual marriages end in divorce instead.

    Similarly, while I think it seriously weakens marriage that the use of contraception (and the idea that people only have children when the intend to) is so widespread, so long as marriages consist of a man and a woman, kids tend to happen. (This is anecdote, not data, but over the years I’ve seen a great number of female coworkers get married, proclaim that they won’t have children “till they’re ready” and then get pregnant as a “surprise” within the next 24 months. Yeah, well, “Surprise!” but if you have sex regularly, even attempting to use contraception, you often end up pregnant.)

    So while I agree there are a great many assaults on marriage in our current culture, I don’t think that natural marriage is such a lost cause as it is. However, I think that abolishing civil marriage entirely and replacing it with a generic “civil union” which was equally available to opposite sex and same sex couples, as well as anyone who happens to share living space and wants some tax breaks, would serve to break down the awareness of natural marriage a good deal more in our society than it already is. Calling it a “civil union” and making it equal opportunity would, I think, tend to strip out a lot of the long standing cultural baggage which currently adheres to the “marriage” term. And that would be to the detriment of society.

    Similarly, although it’s true that no fault divorce makes marriage impermanent (and thus violates its meaning) it would be a lot _more_ destructive if civil marriage were set up to expire and need to be renewed every year. Sure, you can divorce any time with no reason, but there is at least the built in assumption that it will last till death _unless_ something goes wrong.

    It seems to me that going to a civil union only system (open to other configurations than one man/woman mate pair) would be more on the destructiveness level of having an annual contract version of marriage than on the no fault divorce level.

  • A fault in these discussions is, I believe, an implicit sense that the government in the U.S. [the State] is a moral government; that somehow the U.S. is the New Jerusalem, the City On the Hill.

    Now the U.S. government, or its elected representatives, may have done some good things. It has also done some horrible things. Slavery comes to mind, and that continuation of slavery which were the Jim Crow laws. Now we have child murder and killing off the elderly, and the disabled.

    As Catholics, we tend to think that we have a place in this State, this Society. But it is a place on disdainful sufferance: whether from the Protestant denominations or their cast offs, the liberal progressives. Many Catholics look for, and believe they have gained, acceptance from these groups. It is rather like the sufferance gained by Jews under Gladstone – “as long as they know their place”.

    Look around and you will find that the Catholics who have gained some acceptance have done so at sacrifice of their principles. One has but to read the articles in COMMONWEAL, The NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, AMERICA [“THE” Catholic weekly – ah, the Jebbies].One has but to pay heed to the excuses by “catholic” college and university presidents that they wish to keep up with their academic colleagues.

    I believe it will be clearer if one remembers the treatment of the Church under the Roman emperors. At the moment, the Church in America has not yet been inflicted with open oppression. But it is blind to believe that it could not happen. And especially if so many Catholics act like the bishops under Henry VIII. “What can it matter?”,

    To the question at issue – marriage by two males or two females – state marriage in this country was the product of Protestant theology, itself a degenerative derivative of Catholic theology. Then divorce became easier; then the use of contraceptives [“what can it matter?”]. Now the prevalence of baby murder. And now the growth of pregnancies without “benefit of the banns”.

    It is difficult to keep human nature within bounds. Because it is difficult, it is said to be impossible. That is a cop-out.

  • Gabriel, I seem to remember reading an old Catholic marriage instruction book that my parents picked up (back in the 1950s) which quoted various papal encyclicals as saying, in effect, that since marriage was a divine institution the state really had no right to regulate it in the first place.

    I realize that what the popes in question were referring to were, most likely, civil laws allowing divorce and remarriage. Still, it sounds kind of ironic in light of the Church fighting so hard to MAINTAIN state regulation of marriage today.

    Also, didn’t Martin Luther insist that marriage was NOT a sacrament, but purely a civil matter? If that is the case, perhaps we can indeed thank the Protestant Reformers for our current situation.

    I thought it was Louisiana that proposed or tried “covenant” marriage; I don’t know whether they still have it or not.

    If I were queen I would launch a massive public education campaign aimed at reminding people of the benefits to society of as many children as possible having BOTH a mother and a father. I would also remind same-sex couples that there is nothing preventing them from drawing up private contracts with the aid of an attorney, or even acting as their own attorneys, to confer upon each other all the legal benefits of marriage, such as inheritance, health care decision making, insurance benefits, etc. Therefore their civil rights are not being violated by marriage being reserved for opposite sex couples.

  • While a debate on purely intellectual grounds is of great value, let’s try and approach this with the mind of the CHURCH:


    The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

  • Elaine,
    I can’t speak for all Protestants, but my dh, who was raised Methodist, says that in that church marriage is not a sacrament.

  • Elaine,

    I concur with your opinion of no-fault divorces, but I’d also like to add that contraception played a major role as well. As the procreative act had been torn asunder from the unitive act, a mental divorce between the two seeped into the mainstream where the act of getting married has become ultimately meaningless.

  • Elaine,
    I believe our problem stems from the short time [and it was short] in which the Church was heeded about such matters. The point I am trying to make is that the laws of the Church come first, the state laws second.
    Whether or not the State gets involved in marriage speaks to the morality of the State, not of the Church. For all that we are U.S. citizens, we are Catholics first. Fortunately we have [unlike other denominations, and even unlike Judaism] a central authority which speaks slowly and carefully and clearly on moral matters.

    Just as we are meant to rely on doctors when we have a medical problem, so we rely on the Holy Father when there is a moral problem. We Catholics are extremely blessed in this. This blessing we may have to pay for with the scorn of the mediums and the semi-catholic.

  • Gabriel,

    Assuming that we eventually have same-sex marriage in the future, it would certainly accelerate the decline in the sanctity of marriage as being another ‘option’ to go through the motions. Something along the lines of where Norway and Sweden have regressed to.

    That being said, we as Catholics (and I agree wholeheartedly that we are Catholics first and Americans second) can be shining examples of what a healthy and fruitful marriage is. We can be very counter-cultural and further raise our profile within secular society. We can certainly be winning more converts over to our faith and side in the long run.

    Besides, we procreate in more proficient numbers than contraceptive marriages do.

    Yes, I have a rosy view of the future, but I like it!

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  • Tito,

    Much of the problem with the changes is linguistic. Perhaps [if anatomical language is permissible] marriage should be defined as including the possibility of a man putting his engorged penis into a woman’s vagina. It does not include putting the penis into an anus, or sucking the penis, or licking the anus. The proponents of gay “marriage” use the respectability of marriage to distract from these common homoerotic actions.

    [Before anyone gets to annoyed by the words, I refer to 1 Kings 25:22 where David threatens “any that pisseth against the wall”. Which is to say, any male].

  • I should add to my comment that the Church does not recognize a marriage when the man is incapable of “putting…”. Or the woman of receiving.

  • I just love how everyone assures me that I agree with homosexual marriage.

    Gee, it’s so nice that there are mind readers willing to throw away MY beliefs in order to get in touch with what “younger people” think these days– gleefully ignoring that we don’t, in fact, all believe whatever they’ve decided to hobble us with.

    The only reason the gov’t really needs to be involved in marriage is because the union of a man and woman tends to result in new little citizens, and it’s in the gov’ts interest to make sure those little citizens grow into law-abiding, stable, productive big citizens.
    A stable mother-and-father type home is the most effective way to do this.

    I really wouldn’t mind some kind of a contract to fix the most common complaint of homosexual activists– I really don’t think you should *have* to be married to someone in order to visit them at the hospital. Sexual activity has nothing to do with that– the older widows and widowers that I’ve known who are cared for by non-relatives who have to jump through a dozen hoops to get the folks who are acting as family…. oops, I’m digressing…..

    When two men can accidentally find themselves pregnant, then I’ll consider if homosexual marriage might be a civil rights issue.

  • Also, please bear in mind that these are the best legal minds of the law school that produced a nationally known expert in (breaking) federal corruption law — none other than former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who liked to boast about having gotten a C in his constitutional law course.

  • But what happens when one questions the functions of marriage based on public versus private interests? A good intro is here:


4 Responses to The Laughing (Four of Them) Babies

  • Thanks, Tito, what a great video! Laughing babies are one of the most delightful sights and sounds on this planet.

    One of my nephews went on laughing jags when he was a baby that lasted so long his mother got worried. He’d not only tear up but put his hands on his tummy, he’d laugh so hard. Now he’s a college freshman – and yes, he’s still quite the joker, he had me laughing like crazy at Christmas dinner.

  • Holding his belly, that is to cute!

  • Donna V.,

    This is only a suggestion, but you should put up a pic for your ID. It would make AC look so much more spiffier! (shameless AC marketing).

  • They remind me of my twin sons when they were babies, multiplied by two! Babies, God’s reminder of the innocence we once possessed in the Garden of Eden.

The Catholic Liberal Case for Sanctioning Pro-choice Politicians

Monday, February 9, AD 2009

I was talking with a good friend who is both a faithful Catholic and a principled progressive the other day, and she said something which (sometimes feeling mildly guilty about how politically convenient calls to sanction pro-choice Catholic politicians are for me) I had not thought of before.

“I think the bishops are partly to blame,” she said, in regards to the difficulties pro-life Democrats have in getting elected. “There are so many fears of seeming like shills for the Republicans that pro-life and pro-choice Catholic Democrats get treated much the same.”

I’d never thought of this, but really: what a slap in the face. If you’ve taken the politically difficult stand of being a pro-life Catholic Democrat in the historically Catholic-heavy regions like New England or the upper mid-west, and the Church leadership treats your candidacy exactly the same as the pro-choice Catholic incumbant you’re running against, how much incentive is there to take the courageous stand?

And so we end up with this kind of situation.

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25 Responses to The Catholic Liberal Case for Sanctioning Pro-choice Politicians

  • So, is your friend arguing that the Bishops SHOULD impose sanctions against “pro-choice” Catholic politicians? Makes sense to me that a pro-life Democrat would want that distinction to be drawn between those not in line with Catholic teaching and those who, at great risk to their political fortunes, are following Catholic teaching with respect to abortion. Clearly, there being no downside to being Catholic and a “pro-choice” Democrat means there’s little if no upside to being Catholic and a “pro-life” Democrat.

    But, then, that raises the question of why we don’t hear this from more pro-life Democrats. This is a generalization, of course, but we often see pro-life Democrats cautioning (and even railing) against suggestions of the Bishops taking such corrective measures.

    On the other hand, the prospect of Rudy Giuliani winning the GOP nomination for President had many pro-life Catholic Republicans talking of abandoning their party. Many of those same folks also took issue with Rudy receiving Communion at a Papal Mass during Benedict’s visit last year.

  • Picking up from Jay- Cardinal Egan was right and proper to lay out Rudy. But to concentrate on him is to miss forest for trees. The Dem party its own self is the issue- and the baptized Catholics who conveniently ignore the Church’s teachings on any and all life issues. Agreed, the bishops have not exactly been Profiles In Courage candidates up to this summer. Mostly due to their desire to issue safe, politically correct documents. Trying to win the approval of Dems. Only to get back of hand in return. Slapping escalated after Roe. Therefore a bit of reluctance to endure stinging faces. Much like poor Pope Paul after the firestorm from Humanae Vitae. Never issued another encyclical of such importance again. With a fairly new set of shepherds, who got their marching orders from Pope B last April, we can reasonably expect them to act stronger and bolder. But like the couch potato who orders PS90, hard to break old and bad habits.

    To counter DC’s friend, consider a recent conversation between mineself and a bright young friend, working on her master’s degree. Secular upbring, with all it entails. She had never heard of Humanae Vitae. Thus our dilemma.

  • So, is your friend arguing that the Bishops SHOULD impose sanctions against “pro-choice” Catholic politicians?

    That was her take, though I agree with you that it often seems a lot of people simply stick at complaining that their party is getting beat up too much.

    Her opinion was that as long as the Kennedys and Pelosis of the world get treated as reputable Catholic politicians by their bishops, there’s really no incentive for Democratic candidates to put in the work of bucking their party on the abortion issue.

  • Hilarious. My heart goes out to those many, many Catholic Democrat politicians who are persecuted for their “pro-life” convictions by the Roman hierarchy. Is your friend a unicorn, peradventure?

    “Her opinion was that as long as the Kennedys and Pelosis of the world get treated as reputable Catholic politicians by their bishops, there’s really no incentive for Democratic candidates to put in the work of bucking their party on the abortion issue.”

    For one thing, that doesn’t even make sense. According to that line of reasoning, if bishops are treating pro-choice Democrat candidates like “reputable Catholics,” then these mysterious and rarified “pro-life Dem candidates” would have all the more cause to trumpet their life-affirming values within a Catholic political context, if it’s really Catholic approval they seek! No bishop could fail to draw the distinction between a pro-life Dem candidate and a pro-choice Dem candidate. Moreover, if the playing field for pro-life and pro-choice Democrat candidates is equal in the eyes of bishops (as you say your friend opines), then what “incentive” is needed, pray tell, for a pro-life candidate to act according to conscience, all things being equal? What your friend is failing to admit, in all this obfuscation, is that the goal of winning votes is more important than Church teaching on the life issue, one way or the other. It’s astonishingly clear.

    This is all so much smoke-and-mirrors…a Democrat semantic dance-in-the-dark. No wonder so-called progressive Catholics are confused and generally adrift. They can’t even get their excuses straight.

    Episcopally persecuted/unchampioned pro-life Democratic candidates. Yes, that’s GOT to be at the root of the problem. I’ve heard it all, now. Please: there aren’t enough little violins in the entire world.

  • Well, as a Catholic Democrat, I think there is something to her argument. In a spirit of good charity, I disagree with many of you have find the perspective to be some sort of a joke.

    First, to be a pro-life Democrat is to walk a fine line. It is essentially hell to run in Democratic primaries; elections are usually a cake walk compared to the primary run against the monetary force of pro-choice groups. But there are times in general elections when the party won’t back pro-life Democrats with money, though still incumbent pro-life Democrats generally don’t lose their seats to Republicans in elections; they lose them in primaries. Often times, very principles pro-life Democrats have to drop out of races or they don’t even run.

    Secondly, there is this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, sometimes even if you are pro-life and are working in the trenches. I was reading an article in the Human Life Review, I’m not sure if it was a magazine or if it was online, but either Representative Tim Ryan or Bob Stupak, both of which are pro-life Catholic Democrats with consistent 100% pro-life voting records. Whomever it was, discussed his Catholic faith and his difficulties in public office and one was this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, or kind of mocked the idea of voting for such candidates as if the ethical dilemma was voting for a Democrat not a “pro-choice” candidate — the two are not always synonymous.

    In fact, there was a little bit in the article, which was nearly 20 pages about tension between pro-life Democrats and the National Right to Life, including instances where the NRTL endorsed a single candidate with two pro-life candidates with proven records voting against each other and a quarrel over the NRTL monetarily supporting Republican candidates, but not so eagerly lending that support so readily or abundantly to proven pro-life Democrats (whom they repeatedly give 100% ratings) in close, hard fought elections when what is truly at stake is keeping a seat pro-life. I think any sensible pro-life person would rather two pro-life candidates run against each other than allow the risk of a pro-choice candidate winning at all. If anyone is interested, I’ll look into finding the article — though, I’m not entirely sure if it’s online. I think I might have wrote about it at some point before.

    Now, DC made says that his friend says the Bishops are “partially” responsible for these complications. I am not sure if this means that Catholic bishops are clearly condemning pro-life Democrats. I don’t think it does. I think it is implicit of the fact that certain Bishops who make comments without further clarification almost make statements that voting Republican is non-negotiable and this may inadvertently effect the pro-life Democrats, particularly those who are Catholic. As a Catholic myself, there is always seems to be a question of my orthodoxy even after it becomes clear that I am unapologetically pro-life. So, while some may in good charity disagree, I humbly ask that you not so harshly laugh off such “absurdness” before really considering what it’s like to be on the other side.

    I think it is clear that if we’re going to win the battle for the unborn, we cannot allow the pro-life movement to be locked to one side of the political spectrum; I believe it would be more effective if there wasn’t a war of rolling back pro-life gains and fighting to get them back after a pro-life sweep because really building a “Culture of Life” in my view has been cheapened to a political slogan talked about every election cycle in order to ensure votes. Hence, I don’t think the pro-life movement should be confined to a single side of the American political discourse.

    That’s my two cents.

  • As much as I disagree with the democrats on almost every issue, the abortion holocaust so vastly outweighs that I completely agree the your analysis. A pro-life Democrat party might be bad news for the Republicans it would be great news for the unborn, and so I am wholeheartedly in favor of it.


    are you kidding? The US bishops with few exceptions take grand steps to avoid condemning pro-abortion politicians of either party, to the detriment of the pro-life cause and at the expense of pro-life politicians of both parties.

    That being said, there really are only a very small number of pro-life democrats, most of them are just pro-choice lite.

  • Eric,

    Secondly, there is this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, sometimes even if you are pro-life and are working in the trenches. I was reading an article in the Human Life Review, I’m not sure if it was a magazine or if it was online, but either Representative Tim Ryan or Bob Stupak, both of which are pro-life Catholic Democrats with consistent 100% pro-life voting records. Whomever it was, discussed his Catholic faith and his difficulties in public office and one was this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, or kind of mocked the idea of voting for such candidates as if the ethical dilemma was voting for a Democrat not a “pro-choice” candidate — the two are not always synonymous.

    Who did those 2 pro-life congressmen support for speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi? Who did they endorse for president? Barack Obama?

    100% pro-life? I think not. I would not suggest it is necessarily immoral for a Catholic to support these candidates, but it is certainly not morally acceptable to give Nancy Pelosi control of the House of Representatives. I believe that completely justifies NRTL’s stance on pro-life Democrats. Look at the example of Casey? So many of these are just providing cover for the abortion pushers.

    I would also be interested to know their stances on other non-negotiable items.

    To be clear, I believe YOU are not in this category.

  • The Democratic party is opposed to principles. They are relativist to the core. Sure, certain people who fancy themselves Democrats have principles, and may even really want to put them into practice, sort of. But the Democratic politicians, the people elected to office, by and large, do not have any principles, and they actively work against those who do, calling them dogmatic and narrow minded and opposed to change. Democrats, enlightened, appeal to whatever people seem to want at the moment and then try to give it to them. After all, as Keynes said, “in the long run, we’re all dead”. Principles tend to get in the way with what we might want right now.

    In short, the party is a bad match with Catholicism.

  • I’m not sure on who either of the two voted for in the past election. As far as I know, they did not publicly come out and endorse a presidential candidate. Nor do I know who they voted for, for Speaker of the House.

    As far as voting goes, to the end of the 2008 year, both of these two Congressmen have voted completely pro-life on legislation in regard to abortion and ESCR. As a matter of fact, the Pregnant Woman Support Act which is the Democrats for Life of America’s 95-10 initiative which was re-introduced in both chambers of Congress — supported by the U.S. bishops — has actually become more pro-life. In the House version, I’ve noticed that Ryan removed public funding of contraception as a means of combatting abortion.

    Sen. Casey is not his father, certainly. But I don’t think it is fair to let the failures of some be grounds to withhold approval and/or assistance to honest-to-goodness men of good will, particularly pro-life Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska who has voted consistently with pro-life Republicans his entire career in Congress.

  • Well, if the Democratic Party is opposed to principles, then I think it’s a noble cause to transform it from the inside and make it open to principles.

  • Can’t find anything on the votes for Speaker, but here is Tim Ryan’s record:


    * Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    * Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    * Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    * Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother?s life. (Oct 2003)
    * Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
    * Rated 10% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    * Expand contraceptive services for low-income women. (May 2006)
    * Rated 80% by the NRLC, indicating a mixed record on abortion. (Dec 2006)
    * Provide emergency contraception at military facilities. (Apr 2007)
    * Ensure access to and funding for contraception. (Feb 2007)

    * Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
    * Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
    * Rated 63% by the HRC, indicating a mixed record on gay rights. (Dec 2006)

    * Rated 25% by the Christian Coalition: an anti-family voting record. (Dec 2003)

  • Bart Stupak does much better on abortion.


    * Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    * Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    * Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    * Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother?s life. (Oct 2003)
    * Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
    * Voted YES on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
    * Voted YES on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
    * Voted YES on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
    * Voted YES on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
    * Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    * Rated 100% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-life stance. (Dec 2006)
    * Prohibit transporting minors across state lines for abortion. (Jan 2008)

    He appears to be in conflict on other non-negotiables:

    * Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
    * Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
    * Voted NO on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)

  • Like it or not the US is a two party political system. It is in the best interest of the nation to have a strong, and healthy (meaning not in favor of abortion and other fundamentally immoral positions) Democrat and Republican party.

    I have a more pessimistic assesment of pro-life Democrats than Eric, but he is entirely right that the a strong stance by the bishops would help pro-life Democrats, and be a good thing for the nation.

    A strong stance by the bishops would force the Democrats to reform into at least being neutral, or face electoral decimation.

  • Now, DC made says that his friend says the Bishops are “partially” responsible for these complications. I am not sure if this means that Catholic bishops are clearly condemning pro-life Democrats. I don’t think it does. I think it is implicit of the fact that certain Bishops who make comments without further clarification almost make statements that voting Republican is non-negotiable and this may inadvertently effect the pro-life Democrats, particularly those who are Catholic.

    I think her point was that too often bishops (in an effort not to seem partisan) congratulate Republican Catholics for what they see as typically Republican Catholic issues (such as protecting the unborn) and Democratic Catholics for what they see as typically Democratic Catholic issues (such as helping the poor) but are afraid to be seen as taking sides when a pro-life Democrat who is Catholic runs against a pro-choice one.

    Specifically, she wished that rather than continuing to give the Kennedys and similar Catholic political dynasties that turned pro-choice respect as Catholic laymen, those politicians’ bishops had explicitly endorsed pro-life Democratic challengers in the primaries.

  • Correction: Representative Davis introduced PWSA not Ryan. Ryan co-sponsored it. I thought it was the other way around.

  • Maaaatttttttt:


    I did not say a word about the amount of episcopal support or non-support of political candidates of either persuasion. I made my remarks based upon Darwin Cath’s contention, i.e. that his politico-pal lamented this perception of bishops as giving no explicit endorsement to one sort of candidate over the other.

    Hence, that would mean the playing field is allegedly equal, and, all things being equal, what could possibly impede a Dem candidate who *already espouses genuine pro-life convictions* from simply following their conscience? Could it be that they require a reward, an incentive, (specifically from bishops!) if they already possess such convictions?

    DEM CANDIDATE: “As a Catholic, I already have pro-life convictions but you bishops need to publicly endorse me or else I’ll lie to myself and my constituents and follow my Party’s most popular opinion. Nyah.”

    What a commedy of errors. One can clearly see that, if a genuinely pro-life Democrat politician whines and deflects some sort of milquetoast blame to bishops, this is a smokescreen. When that politician rejects their own conscience and publicly proclaims a pro-choice allegiance they do not necessarily feel, they do so ostensibly to “get elected,” and in doing so reveal that *this* is their ultimate concern–not any sort of hypothetical approval from the episcopate or, apparently, even from their own consciences. Such a hypocrite does not admirably represent the Church or the Democratic constituency, in this case–and this IS the specific scenario mentioned by Darwin Catholic within this conversation, from the very lips of his political friend.

    Please. You dear rocket scientists need to read between the lines of all this Democrat prevarication and obfuscation concerning the life-issue. We all know the history of the Democratic Party and the RC Church in this country (or we should). We know how that relationship was forged, formed, and changed over the decades based upon the thrust of the Party’s changes, Catholic demographics and sundry. The relationship is changing now, due to the Life-issue, which was not a political issue until Roe v. Wade made it an issue and it took the church, as a whole in the US, a couple of decades to process that development and begin to shift (even a bit) in terms of its political colouring.

    No one is saying that Catholics cannot be Democrats. Let them be Democrats and espouse pro-life convictions and reap whatever reaction they reap within their Party. There is no ~law~ stating that a democrat cannot be a Democrat if they hold pro-life convictions. Let them be Democrats and, for sake of argument, subjugate their consciences for politically expedient purposes, following Party lines and espousing pro-choice convictions and I guarantee they will face some consequences from certain people in the Church, bishops or not bishops. Let them be Democrats and publicly promote genuinely pro-choice convictions, in which case, they are NOT Catholics. The bishops have made this latter point quite clear, at least.

    Moreover, the bishops in the US have been generally quite clear, as a body, that they will not publicly endorse one candidate over another. In fact, to do so poses a potential problem for them, in case you are unfamiliar with tax exemption/conflict-of-interest laws in this nation. Where’s the big surprise in all of this?

    So, no, amid everyone else’s evasive maneuvering around the real issue (personal responsibility and integrity, even for–gasp!–politicians), amid all this self-victimization of Democrat Catholic candidates, I was not kidding. And you, apparently, were not reading.

  • Iaaaaannnnn,

    I think it’s you who was not reading. I highly doubt that DC or I, or Eric is saying that pro-abortion Democrat politicians would suddenly become pro-life if the bishops supported them actively… but that the pro-life ones would be more inspired to act and they would actually be successful.

    There is no suggestion that the bishops are opposing pro-life democrat candidates or oppressing them, but they aren’t giving them the support that would make them, and potentially the pro-life cause successful.

    Again, don’t get me wrong, I totally oppose most of the positions even pro-life democrats hold, and I think they are mostly pro-choice lite… all the more reason for the bishops to put the whole party’s feet to the fire.

  • Ian,

    I think you underestimate the importance of incentive structures. Politicians, like most people (perhaps more than most people), respond to incentives. For the last thirty years, Democratic Catholic politicians who vote pro-choice have received relatively little criticism from the bishops. And when they are criticized, the bishop who criticizes them is often characterized as an extremist or a Republican flack.

    The argument in the post is that this scenario creates little to no disincentives for Catholic politicians to be pro-choice. Arguably, if the bishops were more forceful in their criticisms, these politicians would have at least some disincentive to support pro-choice legislation. After all, Ted Kennedy went from saying abortion wasn’t acceptable in civilized society in 1976 to his current position by around 1980 when he wanted to run for President. Politicians respond to incentives.

    Regarding your point about sincerity, I vote for politicians based on what I think they will do. I’ll take someone who doesn’t care one way or the other about an issue but will do what I want over a politician that sincerely disagrees with me (particularly on abortion) every time. Sincerity is relevant to me as a voter only to the extent it is predictive. I don’t care as a voter whether a politician is sincerely pro-life, conflicted, or sincerely pro-choice; I care about how they will act on the issue. As we have plenty of evidence that politicians respond rather quickly to incentives, the actions of the bishops in providing incentives or disincentives is relevant.

    It may be, again, that bishops do not have enough influence for this to matter. But it’s not crazy to suggest it would in some cases, and bishops have a responsibility in any case to prevent the scandal of public Catholics muddying what the Church teaches.

  • Along the lines of what Matt and John Henry said, but being a Darwin type I can’t help pointing out what we’re looking at is basically a selective pressure. Look at it this way:

    Among likely Democratic voters there exist three groups:

    a) Those who are are actively pro-abortion.
    b) Those who are to some extent pro-life (and to make things simple, let’s assume that they listen to the bishops as well)
    c) Those who don’t care.

    Imagine that two Democratic politicians who are Catholic are running for a nomination in the primary. One is pro-choice and one is pro-life.

    A) will vote for the pro-choice candidate. C) will split unpredictably between the two. Thus if the pro-life Democrat is going to stand any chance of winning, he desperately needs B) to vote for him. In this regard, it might help if the local bishops denounce the pro-choice Catholic loudly and make clear how unacceptable his position is, while allowing the pro-life Catholic to make his case. If instead the bishop treats the pro-choice candidate gently (perhaps because he’s a Kennedy or a member of some other political dynasty), the pro-life candidate is far more likely to lose.

    That does not by any means mean that the pro-life candidate will change his convictions (though he might) but it does mean that the pro-life candidate is unlikely to hold office.

    So the argument is essentially: If bishops don’t give pro-choice Catholic Democrats a hard time, they make it harder for pro-life Catholic Democrats to defeat them in the primaries — and thus those pro-life Democrats there all will almost never win (except in areas that would otherwise go Republican.)

  • Have all of you forgotten the situation in which religious leaders find themselves, in this nation, concerning the explicit endorsement of political candidates?

    Gents, please tell me that you understand this much, at least, or all of our discussion is in vain.

    It is pointless to look for excuses within this context. You say that you want bishops to explicitly endorse pro-life candidates, because it would really be an “incentive” for these poor, afflicted, wilting-flower Democrat politicians.

    I will counter by telling you that the bishops most clearly and incontrovertibly endorse pro-life candidates by virtue of their unwavering and unmistakable teaching about life’s sanctity. Period. There’s your unmistakable endorsement. No other incentive is required. My point is that, if “incentive” is required to uphold one of the most clear and basic tenets of Catholicism, then the motives of the one seeking said incentive are patently aberrant, if one is even remotely talking about ethics. And if we’re not talking about ethics, then this conversation is pointless.

    DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE: “I’m not sure I’ll believe what I’m supposed to believe, or what I’m clearly told I’m supposed to believe, unless I have some incentive from Catholic bishops (whine whinny whine whinny).”

    BISHOPS: “Political candidates who publicly espouse or vote for pro-choice legislation should refrain from receiving the Eucharist and consider themselves no longer in communion with the Church. How’s that for incentive?”

    It’s clear, fellas. And, John Henry:

    “As we have plenty of evidence that politicians respond rather quickly to incentives…”

    This means what, exactly, John? That we should encourage, indulge, revere and simply accept the neediness of politicians for their multifold incentives? That Roman Catholic bishops should alter their teaching and orthopraxis to conform to the oft-shady world in which American political incentive thrives so often at the cost of ethics? Really? Are you truly trying to make a case for that?

    That issue is relevant only if you are seriously considering or promoting the notion that Catholic bishops should act in such a fashion. Otherwise, it is relevant only to condemn such an idea as ethically and morally unacceptable.

    Rather, I would urge you to start holding Catholics in-the-pew, as it were, the political and non-political, to far greater accountability when it comes to identifying themselves as Roman Catholic and when it comes to accepting their fellow Catholics as such. There are canon laws regarding scandal, lest you forget. Do not think that this is a negligible point.

    Compared to the Catholic episcopate, evangelical leaders have a much less well-defined doctrine about the sanctity of life, but maintenance of this belief is nevertheless enthusiastic and pervasive in its enthusiasm. Even then, evangelical leaders (like Catholic leaders in the US) must be very guarded about public endorsement of specific political candidates. Very guarded. The brilliance is that, in their churches, they don’t need to publicly endorse or offer “incentives.”

    I guarantee you that a publicly pro-choice Democrat politician who (hypothetically speaking) claimed full membership in, say, Saddlebrook Church, would feel considerable heat, a most considerable degree of discomfort. This discomfort would come largely from the congregation, rather than the pulpit.

    If pro-choice Democratic candidates find it easy to justify their viewpoints and attend Mass simultaneously, it is because they find the ambience and climate in their local Catholic congregations to be quite welcoming and impartial. Why?

    Should not lay Catholics, who far outnumber bishops, and who form the vast majority of political constituencies themsleves (!), be considered far more responsible than bishops when it comes to the giving of certain “incentives” to their fellow-Catholics who happen to be political candidates?

    Certainly you must be able to perceive this reality, at least. The teaching and accountability of the bishops has been and remains clear and unmistakable on the issue of the sanctity of life. The climate in our congregations, among Catholics in general, is ~not~ clear and unmistakable. Lay the blame for this wherever you wish but it remains a fact.

    I believe you’ll find that this is more pertinent to the point, particularly when speaking of large numbers of people who vote, and those who claim to represent large numbers of people who vote, and any and all “incentives” such people may require from the religious sphere, and what sorts of incentives are there to be given from the religious sphere.

    Think about it.

  • Ian,

    the bishops most clearly and incontrovertibly endorse pro-life candidates by virtue of their unwavering and unmistakable teaching about life’s sanctity. Period. There’s your unmistakable endorsement.

    this is where you are wrong. There are precious few bishops who do so, it is rarely or never preached. Most bishops have completely refused to act against pro-abortion politicians. Are you aware of estimates that as many as half of the US Bishops actually voted for Obama? Where have you been?

  • Respectfully, Matt, you misunderstand. I did not say nor am I saying that the bishops are out there showing-up by surprise in the churches, patrolling regularly in the bushes, waiting to leap out and pontificate, or standing in the pulpits and hammering away at congregations about the evils of abortion. I think we all agree that this does not happen.

    However, the episcopate’s teaching, its official position about abortion (and thus that of the entire Church) is crystalline in its clarity. Every year, in numerous and often high-profile clashes with various opponents, the bishops have opportunity (and are usually required) to reiterate that teaching in one official capacity or another. People do get frequent opportunity to be reminded of the Catholic position, and reminded that it is an uncompromising position.

    For my own argument’s sake, I believe in the “say it, then say it again” approach.

    The episcopate’s position on abortion is fundamental, clear, and unmistakable. No Catholic needs or should require an “incentive” to publicly uphold that teaching about the sanctity of life and continue to call themselves Catholic, no matter who/what that Catholic may be (animal, vegetable, mineral, politician).

    That being noted, I mentioned above that congregations of Catholics across the nation/world have a very real responsibility to police their own churches, to create and maintain truly Catholic environments at the parish level. This is far more pertinent to the original matter because of the simple fact that large numbers of Catholics = large numbers of voters. If Catholics in-the-pew were enthusiastically adhering to the clear teaching of the Church, teaching of the bishops, etc., then the politicians who represent those Catholics would court them and need no “incentive” to waffle (or not waffle) on the abortion issue, would they? There you have it, and I suspect you would/should quite agree with this.

    Yet, the conundrum (or one of them): we know that the vast majority of Catholic congregations/constituencies are not composed of well-catchetized or enthusiastic Catholics. It was after making this assertion that I was careful to note that one can drop the blame for poorly evangelized Catholics at any number of potential doorsteps. Sure, you can blame the bishops. You can blame the priests. You can blame Catholics themselves. Every Catholic has the responsibility to seek-out and establish their own firm foundation in the Faith–even if bishops and priests are not doing a proverbial bang-up job of teaching.

    But that is a separate issue, this assigning of blame for the poor state of catechesis in general and subsequent correcting of the problem.

    Upholding the most basic and well-known tenets of Catholic doctrine, like the position on abortion, under all circumstances (without the need for incentives and rewards) is quite another issue. After all, I am fairly certain that far more “Catholics” can tell you that their Church categorically condemns abortion and brooks no argument than the number of average Catholics that can give you even a slightly coherent definition of the Trinity, or the Incarnation.

    I’m certain you get my point. I, too, was a little bit stunned by the polling figures of lay Catholics in regard to Obama. I am not aware of any credible polling stats about related episcopal votes and would consider any publicized estimate about how bishops voted to be very speculative and questionable. In any case, Obama is a man who (among other things) basically voted for legislation that favors a form of infanticide. I was aware of that fact, but most lay Catholics, apparently, were not as inclined to inform themselves. Perhaps that was the case? There are other reasons, as well. None of them excusable.

    To finish: I understand your point. We are living in very disturbing times–particularly and peculiarly disturbing times, given the general lavishness of our blessings and gifts and creature comforts and means, etc. (while they last, at this rate). These times require a greater amount of discernment on the part of Catholics, who are not, for the most part, inclined or encouraged to *discern*.

    The issues before us are complex and all of these things merit vigorous discussion, which is exciting to do, and it’s pleasant to have discovered this forum, and I respect the opinions rendered here. Things seem very well delineated and worthy. Though some answers may seem more apparent than others, and even simple at times, the actual solutions are not so. Basically, all things being noted, it seems we are in agreement. Cheers~

  • Ian,

    The proof is in the pudding. It is a strange contradiction, but the reality is, one of the gravest and most common evils is is rarely preached strongly and sanctions are not made in the many cases where it is called for.

    Look at the other seriously neglected sin… contraception? When did you here a priest or bishop preach against it?

  • I don’t disagree with you, Matt. I’ve made that clear. But do look at the complexity of the matter and the responsibility individual Catholics have to root-themselves firmly in their Faith if they are ignorant concerning that Faith, regardless of the disinterest or poor leadership on the part of clerics.

    And, of course, I’ve heard maybe two or three things about contraception from the pulpit in nearly 30 years (!), but in personal friendships with various bishops and priests here in the USA and Europe, it has been discussed. I’ve never, ever met a bishop who allows even a hint of wiggle-room on abortion, but I’ve met several who feel privately that contraception should not be considered “sinful.” But remember: the majority of bishops across the world were once prepared to officially allow contraception before Paul VI thwarted the will of the majority of bishops on this specific matter, as was his prerogative, of course.

    The bottom line is that these matters are currently part of Catholic teaching and, if one wants to be genuinely, fully Roman Catholic, one ought to adhere.

    But, if a lay Catholic knows Church teaching on these matters and chooses to flaunt such teaching, then they have some responsibility for the tepidity of the Catholic dynamic, too.

    Let’s pray that both the episcopate and the laity get their respective acts together. We can do our part in this via strong Catholic witness.

  • Ian,

    but do look at the complexity of the matter

    you need to stop implying that your interlocutors are idiots for not agreeing with your assessment.

    and the responsibility individual Catholics have to root-themselves firmly in their Faith if they are ignorant concerning that Faith, regardless of the disinterest or poor leadership on the part of clerics.

    Nobody here is saying that there is no culpability or responsibility on all Catholics to be pro-life and work hard for the cause of the unborn. This discussion is about the responsibility of Bishops to make sure they do.

    I’ve met several who feel privately that contraception should not be considered “sinful.”

    Which position is materially heretical and is in itself “sinful”. This is precisely why they don’t preach it, because they don’t really believe it’s sinful. In fact I’ve heard priests suggest that they believe if they preached it, then it would become sinful for their flock, so they avoid the subject, trying to protect “innocence”. What a sad state of affairs.

    are currently part of Catholic teaching

    Always and forever. These are definitive and infallible teachings, they don’t change.

Let's Change the Subject? Catholics on the Left

Saturday, January 24, AD 2009

One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of right-leaning Catholics is that they were insufficiently critical of the Bush Administration over the past eight years. According to this criticism, conservative Catholics were too eager to paper over the faults of the Bush Administration, and they failed to object at critical points to the Administration’s policies. While such generalizations can be problematic, I agree with this critique in broad outline. One of the lessons I’ve taken from the past eight years is that this is a temptation that must be consciously resisted.

It’s hard to express my disappointment, then, at the recent post entitled Mexico City? Try Gaza Instead…over at Vox Nova. Here’s the post:

Continue reading...

30 Responses to Let's Change the Subject? Catholics on the Left

  • Obama authorized international funding for abortion.

    No, he didn’t. That isn’t what the Mexico City Policy effected.

  • Your inability to read continues to amaze me.

    1) MM’s post has nothing to do with those Bush-supporting Catholics overlooking his sinful, criminal policies.

    2) MM did not criticize the statement from the Vatican on the matter.

    3) Nor did he say that those who are criticizing the Mexico City policy are wrong to criticize it and “should be talking instead about U.S. funding to Israel.”

    4) He is saying that so-called “pro-life” Catholics should not de-emphasize equally grave matters of u.s. policy according to their partisan leanings. He is saying that human lives who are not white, american babies are also made in the image and likeness of God.

  • some on the left, only seems to care about dead terrorists, and the people that put them in power and subsequently used as human shields. Dead babies make them sleepy (unless the babies are Palestinian and died being used as a human shield, no problem if they died from having their skull crushed).


    It seems a healthy dose of reality is setting in for Obama, he knows now the consequences of losing the war against Islamo-facism.

    So, what good has Obama done from a lefty Catholic perspective? He supports Israel’s right to self defense, he wants us to pay for foreign and American babies to be killed on request, he isn’t closing Gitmo for at least a year, AND he is shooting missiles into villages, possibly killing civilians.


  • “Nor did he say that those who are criticizing the Mexico City policy are wrong to criticize it and “should be talking instead about U.S. funding to Israel.”

    What? Look at the title of the post 🙂

    I think its clear that The effect of the reversal of the Mexico POlicy is anything but scant. If it was scant I dont think in the 90’s our Envoy to the Vatican would have flown home and waited two days in CLintons outer officers to please take a phone call from John Paul the II on this issue

    The Catholic blogsphere has been talking about Gaza non stop. Now not all hold the view that waht the Israelis did was some war crime but there was sure a ton of discussion.

    Catholics on both side can find common ground with Obama. To be honest speaking as someone from the right I thought the biggest indictment as to the Catholic right was not they did not question Bush on certain issues but did not support him in a nearly enough vocal manner on issues that causes us heartburn with other conservatives and when it gets rough. Such as immigration reform

  • John Henry

    I would add one thing. Yes prayer is important but also we must do more than that. We need to be on the phone with our Congress folks saying we very much disagree with this and raise some heck about this.

  • Michael,

    4) He is saying that so-called “pro-life” Catholics should not de-emphasize equally grave matters of u.s. policy according to their partisan leanings. He is saying that human lives who are not white, american babies are also made in the image and likeness of God.

    1. why is it that the left always considered the positions of their opponents “partisan”, whereas their own are always considered principled?

    2. US Policy vis a vis Israel is for Israel to be able to defend itself against attack, not to kill innocents. This is clear and irrefutable.

    3. Israeli policy and actions are clearly not intended to kill innocents as evidenced by their restraint (it is reasonable to argue it is insufficient restraint, but it is clear there is no immoral intent). I have gone over this with you in the past, you never respond: Israel could level Gaza in a weekend, killing everyone there… they have no desire to. Instead they limited their targeting to Hamas operatives and their arms caches, sadly the evil Hamas uses civilian sites for these purposes. Israel even sends out warnings about which sites would be attacked in many cases.

    4. The babies we’re trying to save by not PAYING for their abortions under the Mexico Policy are BROWN, not white.


    Good comments, but I while many conservative Catholics did support Bush on immigration, many others after reflection believed that his proposals did not serve the common good, as they were intended to. Right or wrong, I don’t think it’s fair to indict them for it, as long as they gave due weight to the Catholic principles involved, and not just paying lip service to it. Catholics in good conscience can disagree on this matter.

    It would be interesting to see what a group of orthodox Catholics would come up with as an immigration policy which balanced the needs of those in the country, and the need to welcome the stranger, as well as a just approach for those who have violated these policies in light of the effect it has on those waiting patiently to be admitted legally. Sadly the political process is deeply affected by political considerations, perhaps on both sides.

  • I asked this on another thread, but no answers yet. I’d like to understand what it means to be a progressive yet orthodox Catholic? The underlying philosophy escapes me.

    Obviouslt, by orthodox, I mean adheres to all of the teachings of the Church, even the patriarchal or “bigoted” ones.

  • Obama’s Minion would sooner chew ground glass than deal with the simple fact that he is an ardent supporter of the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history.

  • I wrote: Obama authorized international funding for abortion. M.Z. replied: “No, he didn’t. That isn’t what the Mexico City Policy effected.”

    It certainly did. The Mexico City Policy required NGO’s that receive federal funding to refrain from promoting or performing abortion services in other countries. Overturning it allows funding to those organizations to be used for abortion; which, basically, authorizes funding for abortion internationally.

  • John Henry is absolutely correct. Additionally, since money is fungible, every dollar they get from the US allows them to allocate other dollars from other sources for abortion. Not to mention the fact that this shift deprives the Vatican of US support for the fight against abortion abroad, and places the US on the pro-abort side.

  • Your inability to read continues to amaze me.

    Well, let’s see what you mean.

    1) MM’s post has nothing to do with those Bush-supporting Catholics overlooking his sinful, criminal policies.

    Well, if you read the post, I never claimed it did. I used that as a jumping-off point to discuss what I see as a broader concern. Namely, the odd tendency to attack people who criticize Obama’s abortion policy rather than the policy itself.

    2) MM did not criticize the statement from the Vatican on the matter.

    Well, no. He didn’t mention it at all, and then he criticized U.S. Catholics for talking about it instead of Gaza.

    3) Nor did he say that those who are criticizing the Mexico City policy are wrong to criticize it and “should be talking instead about U.S. funding to Israel.”

    I agree that he didn’t say they were wrong to criticize it (and, if you read, I didn’t say he did). Instead he criticized the people who were criticizing it on other grounds. In any case, the text of the post is included above. Anyone reading this can evaluate that for themselves.

    4) He is saying that so-called “pro-life” Catholics should not de-emphasize equally grave matters of u.s. policy according to their partisan leanings. He is saying that human lives who are not white, american babies are also made in the image and likeness of God.

    Michael, that is a deeply ironic response. We are talking about the Mexico City Policy which funds the abortion of non-‘white, american babies’. We do not need to be reminded that their lives are valuable; that’s why we object to funding to abort them.

  • Writing for Vox Nova means never having to say “I’m wrong, sorry.”

  • He is saying that so-called “pro-life” Catholics should not de-emphasize equally grave matters of u.s. policy according to their partisan leanings.

    Is calling the Mexico City Policy a trifle de-emphasizing a grave matter of U.S. policy?

  • Overturning it allows funding to those organizations to be used for abortion; which, basically, authorizes funding for abortion internationally.

    No it doesn’t.

  • He is saying that human lives who are not white, american babies are also made in the image and likeness of God.

    Once again, a completely spurious insinuation of racism. It’s hard even to put into words how stupid Michael I. is, given that the Mexico City Policy has nothing to do with “white, american babies” — quite the contrary.

    [Ed. Please refrain from referring to people as ‘stupid’]

  • MZ,

    This line of yours is getting deeply obtuse. As you know, money is a fungible resource. If the US government provides lots of “family planning” money to organizations which also provide abortion internationally, it frees up the other funds they were previously using to pay for “family planning” services to fund abortion. It scales their operations overall, and that can’t help but end up funding abortions.

    Come to that, how about if you go shout at MM that although the US provides Israel with lots of financial, humanitarian and military aid, it doesn’t specifically earmark that money for Gaza, and so obviously there’s nothing to protest.

  • Michael, that is a deeply ironic response. We are talking about the Mexico City Policy which funds the abortion of non-’white, american babies’. We do not need to be reminded that their lives are valuable; that’s why we object to funding to abort them.

    Well, I find it interesting that no one on this blog has expressed concerns about Mexicans having abortions — only that we will now supposedly be funding them. Do you care that they are having abortions in Mexico, or that you are now connected to them in a more clear way?

  • Well, I find it interesting that no one on this blog has expressed concerns about Mexicans having abortions — only that we will now supposedly be funding them. Do you care that they are having abortions in Mexico, or that you are now connected to them in a more clear way?


    As you ought to be aware, Michael, abortion is generally illegal in Mexico. The policy is called the Mexico City Policy because it was announced at the UN International Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984. (As an interesting footnote, Alan Keyes was one of those closely involved in writing the policy.)

    Indeed, one of the reasons some of us consider this something other than a “trifle” is that organizations which are defunded by the policy (such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation) are among those US-based organizations which actively agitate against the anti-abortion laws of a number of countries with better moral cultures on this issue than our own.

    Do you really imagine the issues to be separate? When IPPF was defunded under the Mexico City Policy it lost 20% of its global funding. Do you think that _didn’t_ help reduce the spread of abortion?

    Of course we don’t want to see the unborn of other countries slaughtered — that is why we are objecting to funding the butchers. That’s why we don’t respond to this kind of thing by saying “Yawn.” or saying, “Oh, look over there!” If anyone is going to be accused of not caring about the abortion of “brown babies” perhaps it is the Catholics running interference for Obama on this one?

  • If one gets to change the subject, why not change it to this: Obama ordered Predator strikes on Pakistan on Friday:

    “Two missile attacks launched from remotely piloted American aircraft killed at least 15 people in western Pakistan on Friday. The strikes suggested that the use of drones to kill militants within Pakistan’s borders would continue under President Obama.

    Remotely piloted Predator drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency have carried out more than 30 missile attacks since last summer against members of Al Qaeda and other terrorism suspects deep in their redoubts on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.

    But some of the attacks have also killed civilians, enraging Pakistanis and making it harder for the country’s shaky government to win support for its own military operations against Taliban guerrillas in the country’s lawless border region.

    …In the second attack, missiles struck a house near the village of Wana in South Waziristan, killing seven people, according to local accounts and Pakistani news reports. The reports said three of the dead were children.”

    Gaza? Gee, what about the warmongering occupant of the White House? Oh, that’s right, his name’s not Bush – never mind. No anti-war organization has yet condemned, or even commented, on these strikes, although I am sure they would have if the attacks had occurred a week ago.

  • One thing that is missing from these discussions is a more serious look at what Israel is facing. Very large numbers of Palestinians – and quite a few of their “leadership” – want Jews and Christians and homosexuals and the secular and “unclean” women and “apostates” ect dead dead dead dead – especially Israelis.

    Those concerned with “brown babies” more than Internet posturing would do well to start with a failed and truly vile Palestinian civil society: this is the very root of the conflict, an absolute refusal to live in peace. “Cease fires” are a time to rearm. Fatah is replaced with Hamas. Go look at the Hamas charter – a sentiment which has widespread support in Gaza and elsewhere. Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizbollah and who knows what other groups are hanging around, ready to fund and participate in terror.

    In leftist Catholic considerations of Israel and Gaza, how often is there criticism of this madness? The “leaders” and the “men on the street” are extremely open about their views, views that ain’t that hard to discover.

  • jonathanjoones02: Exactly right. A Vox Nova poster absurdly referred to the Palestinians as “Holy Innocents” – this is a society where “Mein Kampf” is a best seller, “martyrs” who blow themselves up at Jewish seders are celebrated, and children are fed Jew hatred with their mother’s milk. The greatest abusers of Palestinian children are their own elders.

    But in the moral calulus of the Left, nothing Israel does to defend itself is ever justified and no action of the Palestinians, however depraved, ever discredits them.

    That’s because it really isn’t about “little brown children.” The Left has never shown much concern when brown people kill each other. It’s about their hatred for Israel and the US.

  • “white babies”, Michael J.?

    When is the left going to get concerned about “black” and “red” babies? (I really detest using crayon colors to describe people, in this case African Americans and Hispanics, but it seems to be the going phrase per Obama’s benediction reverend.) Somewhere around HALF of all black conceptions are ended in abortions in the United States; the systematic effect of Planned Parenthood’s silent extermination of black America. And abroad, the white socialists who run PP are working over time to “keep the population down” in other non-white populations.

  • One thing that is missing from these discussions is a more serious look at what Israel is facing.

    Jonathan, I don’t disagree with you, but at the same time, such a discussion validates the rhetorical ploy of changing the subject.

  • Sorry, I got carried away. Michael I is not stupid; it’s just his reflexive impulse to cry racism where it’s not even arguably applicable.

  • Michael,

    I find it difficult to take that seriously. When I mention the worldwide abortion rate and the horrors of a spreading evil that makes other issues, by the way, look like a picnic — roughly 42 million abortions occur worldwide in 365 days — I think I’m concerned about the abortions in Mexico as well.

    As an African American, George is completely right. It is a fact that roughly 1 in 2 African American pregnancies ends in abortion. It is a fact that the abortion industry is a for-profit industry that throws up “clinics” in minority neighborhoods targetting potential groups that will make them money.

    I can’t help but find the dismissal of Obama’s abortion policies as disturbing. The attack goes to the “right” and seemingly not even a word of criticism goes to the President’s “pro-choice” policies. It’s a scapegoat. This is no small matter. You want to talk about racism, abortion is wiping out MY people. Abortion is systematically the number one killer of black people and is currently the leading cause of black deaths. In America, blacks are the only minority group on the decline in population.

    Not to diminish other issues’ importance, but really, in 2006, I think it was, there were an estimated 42 million abortions worldwide that year and what I’m certain of, was that this number was a decline from 1995’s 48 million abortions worldwide — and I cannot be convinced that the removal of international funding of abortions did not play some part in this. So really, if we’re have well over 40 million abortions every single year in the decades that abortion has been common and widespread…the near 40 million people who’ve died from AIDS in totality, from WWI, WWII, the holocaust, Darfur, other diseases, domestic violence is pale in comparision to the scope and gravity of abortion…for really even now since the founding of America, from the beginning capital punishment only amounts to 4 days of abortion; the war in Iraq, 15 days of abortion.

    I’m no conservative and I am in no way making an argument that those other issues should be thrown on back burners, but the seeming way abortion is just another issue in your eyes is profoundly mistaken. If the issue were slavery or human trafficking that were being funded, I imagine, for some reason, that your response would be different. If we were explicitly sending money and weapons to Israel encouraging a war, you’d be blowing a trumphet and perhaps accusing the “right” of being apathetic — this would be my guess from all I have seen you say. However, when Obama does something profoundly out of accord with the natural law, the scapegoat is “well, you don’t care about these issues…you don’t look at these issues….or, that’s partisan” and you don’t simply seem torn by the fact that Obama’s own rhetoric is being consistent though many people who voted for him seemed to believe that he would be bipartisan.

    Abortion, by far, is the gravest evil that humanity has found itself capable of because the target is most vulnerable and defenseless target one can possibly imagine. It is the legalized, public funded, organized systematic elimination of human life on a global scale that is hardly given second thought by billions of people.

    In light of this, comments like “‘pro-life’ Catholics should not de-emphasize equally grave matters of u.s. policy according to their partisan leanings. He is saying that human lives who are not white, american babies are also made in the image and likeness of God’ is absurd.

    The first line instinctively creates division by framing the argument that any disagreement with you leads to a status of not being “pro-life.” The second matter presupposes that any disagreement on a means to an end is based solely on partisanship and not on reasonable disagreement. It presupposes that people are racist and only care about white American babies, when oh, just in fact, yesterday at the Texas March for Life a pro-life white mother speaking had adopted 3 black children to save their lives from abortion. The rhetoric of the argument hinges itself on contemporary “liberal” mentality, that is, I am the agent of tolerance and everyone who disagrees with me is intolerant, which leads to an imposition of one’s views on everyone else as the only real tolerant views, which is not “tolerance” but rather fascism.

    If you don’t think the conflict with Gaza and Israel, terrible as it is, is *equal* to the mass, quiet extermination of unborn children at the rate of over 40 million a year, then you aren’t “pro-life” and don’t care about babies in other countries, which are made in the image and likeness of God too, you know — as if everyone didn’t already believe that.

    The framing of your argument is divisive…and the other side is being partisan?

  • I meant to say Obama’s rhetoric is INCONSISTENT.


  • Eric, that is a telling and very tragic perspective you give. I don’t think it would be hyperbole to label abortion, among its many other horrors, as something like a black genocide. That’s a phrase that gets sensationalist attention at pro-life marches, but the numbers do back it up.

    Fredericka Mathews-Green hopes that our generation wakes up and realizes the crimes of the previous generation. I hope we do too.

  • I saw the posting about Holy Innocent’s of Gaza on Vox Nova the other day and it really turns my stomach, the real Holy Innocents are the 40 Million aborted children. One could include the children of Gaza in that class too, as long as one acknowledges fairly who plays Herod in that scenario… it is their parents who support Hamas and the Hamas terrorists who use their homes, and neighborhoods to launch terror attacks at Israel. While it’s possible, some Israeli responses are excessive, and a degree of culpability may apply, it is a moral certainty that Hamas is responsible for those murders.


    we don’t always agree, but you have hit the nail on the head here. Well said.


  • M.Z.,

    It would be helpful if you would explain the delicate distinction you are making here. To me there is no distinction to be made between providing funding to organizations that perform abortions and funding abortion, but I would be relieved to be proven wrong. Why do you say that overturning the MCP won’t lead to funding abortion internationally?


Saturday, January 24, AD 2009

A new website: MoralAccountability.com. This is their mission statement:

In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”

Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.

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2 Responses to MoralAccountability.com

22 Responses to Dear Mr. Obama

Voluntary Human Extinction

Tuesday, January 13, AD 2009



When I first came across this group, I thought it was a joke.  Well it is, but they are serious.  The humorous side of me wants to say, “Great!  I am very happy that people with your views will not be having kids!”  The more serious side of me thinks it a calamity that any group of people can seriously call for the extinction of humanity.  Needless to say, although I will say it anyway, this group supports abortion.

This ties in with a particularly foolish blog entry by a woman who believes the path to social progress is to end human reproduction.

Pope John Paul II was fond of speaking of “a culture of life”.  If we don’t have a culture of life in this century I think we will most certainly have a culture of death that will dwarf the body count of the last century.  Silly groups like Voluntary Human Extinction and the deluded blogger are merely ludicrous manifestations of a culture that increasingly views human life not as a sacred gift from God, but rather a disposable commodity.  As Catholics we face no greater challenge than rekindling in our society a respect for innocent human life, and an optimism that life, with all of its challenges and pain, is to be embraced with joy.

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10 Responses to Voluntary Human Extinction

  • At least they’re honest about it. Not buried in p.r. jive like the thugs at Planned Parenthood or spouting the jive about empowerment at NOW. They just hate people. Pretty much the final collective bundle of similar groups- PETA, Greenpeace, other organizations populated by folks with deep- seated issues. Probably hate themselves. Would be fun to see one in a debate with Pope JP Superstar. Nope. Would be like Alex Rodriguez at bat, facing a little league pitcher. Maybe they could arrange an audience with Benedict XVI. Then would be like Ryan Howard to a little leaguer. In the meantime keep an eye on these woowoos. Bad ideas can fly around like computer viruses these days.

  • Well, I don’t know about honest. The woman holding the sign is telling you to kill YOURSELF. She obviously hasn’t killed herself….

  • Well, the messenger needs to persist until everyone else has killed himself, or some might stubbornly insist on self-preservation after the annoying prophet has gone.

    But this just lends credit to what many have said. Once you throw out any notion of God, and man a creation of God, and the dignity of man, you can embrace any stupidity around, especially the materialistic view that somehow the earth should be freeze-framed so that temperatures and climates never vary, and animals never go extinct, and urban sprawl doesn’t mar the beautiful landscaping, and forest fires never ruin the beautiful trees….

    It may sound a little arrogant to say, but the earth was made for man to inhabit it. The earth, like man, has no inherent right to exist in and of itself, and someday–assuming God permits things to progress this far, the world will be a charred cinder before a rapidly expanding sun. Granted, we should be good stewards of the earth, but that doesn’t mean we should view ourselves as such a blight on the planet that we should destroy ourselves.

    But then, the message of the evil human spread across the globe has be pounded quite often, in the media and in our entertainment. I’m thinking specifically of the Matrix when Elrond–I mean, Agent Smith describes humanity to Morpheus as a virus infecting the world. Granted, it was a “bad guy” making the monologue, but the message is still clear.

  • Ryan: PETA has now launched an ad campaign directing us all to think of fish as “kittens of the sea,” which is supposed to make them less appetizing, I suppose. More than a few bloggers have had a great deal of fun mocking PETA (one poster at Tim Blair’s noted that his land kitten enjoys eating sea kittens and thus is guilty of cannibalism; another expressed concern for the day when his sea kittens share a plate with hush puppies), but although these groups are easily ridiculed your point remains:

    Once you throw out any notion of God, and man a creation of God, and the dignity of man, you can embrace any stupidity around,

    PETA and the human extinctionists are jokes now, but for how long? Groups and ideas which would have been laughed off the planet 50 years ago (or met with a shocked silence) are mainstream now.

  • Humanity is (has always been) seventy to a hundred years away from extinction. Why do these morons want to hurry the process? The least they could do is lead the way if they’re THAT adamant about it. We’ll follow, of course (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…)

    BTW, if we make the change from fish to “Sea Kittens”, I can modify my “cats are cheaper than dog food” schtik to “Sea Kittens are cheaper than catfood”.

  • Yeah, I read about the movement to call fish “sea kittens”. Perhaps it is cliche to wax Shakespearean, but the line “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” always comes to mind. Call fish what you will, it is still an aquatic animal that people love to catch, deep fat fry, and serve up with chips. Personally, I dislike fish, but I might be tempted to try this new feline of the sea. It could be reclassified as a delicacy and served at the really posh restaurants. “Here is your Indian Ocean tabby with garlic, sah!”

  • All right, everybody, sing together:

    “Ask any mermaid you happen to see:
    What’s the best tuna? Kitten of the Sea!”

  • Pingback: I Thought So « ?? ?????
  • “Ask any mermaid you happen to see:
    What’s the best tuna? Kitten of the Sea!”

    Message to self, do not drink soda while reading something this humorous!

  • Oops–
    I hope your keyboard didn’t fare too badly!
    Thanx for the compliment, anyway.

Proposal: The Fair Fight Initiative

Thursday, December 4, AD 2008

As is observed every time we discuss Supreme Court appointments, there is very little pro-life progress possible under the Roe v. Wade regime, because anything which is seen as unduly obstructing a woman’s access to terminate her pregnancy (and thus use her constitutional right to “privacy”) is struck down by the courts. And yet, while abortion on demand is decidedly not popular according to the polls, Roe v. Wade mysteriously is. A solid majority of people way they want to keep Roe v. Wade, despite the fact that a solid majority would also be in favor of legal restrictions on abortion well in excess of what Roe allows.

It seems to me that one of the most difficult tasks for the pro-life movement is thus not to convince the population that abortion should be seriously restricted and reduced (banning would right now be a very hard sell, but it would seem that a great deal of progress in that direction would be possible) but rather to convince citizens that Roe is actually an obstacle to this. Thus, “the fair fight initiative”. The purpose would be (and the lawyers on here can inform me if this is indeed a legal possibility) for Congress to pass a law which would officially remove from the federal government (legislature and courts) any ability to restrict or allow abortion.

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7 Responses to Proposal: The Fair Fight Initiative

  • The Supreme Court reviews acts of Congress for constitutionality, and this legislation would be struck down under Roe and Casey, which both maintain that a right to abortion is present in the Constitution. Roe and Casey are an abuse of the text of the Constitution, but they are the law as long as Kennedy is the fifth vote.

    As to the questions posed:
    1) I think federalism arguments are useful to pro-lifers, but it is often noted that one’s position on federalism is often strongly governed by the underlying issue. E.g. – (the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a violation of federalist principles which I support).

    2) I do not think there would be much chance of persuading Democrats to support such an initiative because they would say it is right-wing abortion extremism clothed in federalism;

    3) I am not sure whether it would help or hurt the pro-life movement – it would serve an educational purpose for people who don’t realize that overturning Roe would not make abortion illegal, but it is also very unlikely to happen. I am inclined to think it would not be very helpful.

  • Justice Scalia was right when he said that the “sweet mystery of life” passage from PP v Casey “ate the rule of law.” With so many precedent land mines like those scattered about (Lawrence v Texas, Griswold v Connecticut, etc.), I don’t see how this could work. It’s not a bad idea, because you’ve correctly identified the misperceptions about Roe, but as a practical matter I think we (the citizenry in general) are too far along that line of reasoning.

    If, according to the Court, I get to define my meaning of existence, then I doubt I’ll be amenable to a states’ rights argument that could potentially chip away at my existential-defining rights…

  • “Roe would effectively be overturned by this in that it would be stated that the federal courts had no authority to deal with issues surrounding abortion.”

    It has long been a hotly contested question among lawyers and judges as to how far Congress can go in stripping the Supreme Court, and the lower federal courts, of jurisdiction in particular cases. Even if the Supreme Court ruled that such jurisdiction stripping legislation was constitutional, something I doubt they would do, Roe would still remain the law of the land. The state courts would almost certainly still rule that Roe established a right, under the US Constitution, to an abortion. Now if the highest court in a state ruled otherwise, than that would effectively overrule Roe in that state, since no appeal would then be available to the US Supreme Court if that tribunal had previously ruled constitutional the jurisdiction stripping legislation.

  • It’s an interesting idea. If it did, in fact, allow the states to pass restrictions on abortions, I would call it a big improvement for the pro-life side. Abortion would no longer be a “right”.

    And therefore, I think the chances are slim to none that Democrats would support it.

  • Donald,

    I think that many state courts would be fine with legislative restrictions on abortion if it was established that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction in this area. It would be analogous to same-sex marriage; different courts in different states would have different interpretations.

    At the same time, the Court could not uphold Congressional legislation depriving the Court of authority in this area without overturning Roe, Casey, Carhart, etc. which all assumed that abortion was a constitutional right. The federalism/legislative deference arguments were rejected in Roe and Casey; the Carhart majority must have believed the Court had jurisdiction in this area over Congress because the Partial-Birth Abortion ban it reviewed was passed by Congress. I think the proposed legislation would require Roe/Casey/Carhart to be overturned.

  • Update – Carhart would not need to be overturned, but the position of at least one Justice (either one of the dissenters or Kennedy) would need to change to uphold jurisdiction stripping.

  • The problem John Henry is that any legislative action could not be retrospective in nature. The US Supreme Court clearly did not have its jurisidction restricted when it decided Roe and, effectively, amended the constitution to add abortion as a right. That such an action was merely “a raw exercise in judicial power” as noted by Justice White, and not justified by the text of the Constitution, does not help the fact that the decision was made. I am afraid that almost all State Supreme Courts would still adhere to Roe on the basis that it was the last word on whether abortion restrictions are constitutional , as modified by the progeny of Roe such as Casey, by the US Supreme Court while the US Supreme Court had jurisdiction.

Is "Planned" a Dirty Word for Catholics?

Monday, December 1, AD 2008

Taking a quiet Saturday morning to catch up on reading the newspaper, I was perusing a WSJ article on the lost virtue of prudence in our modern American society when I came across this jarring note:

The puzzling thing is that, under normal circumstances, our Americanus prudens should be flourishing. By looking ahead and exercising self-control, these unassuming homebodies tend to do well in school, form solid families and make lots of money — which they compulsively save, tucking it away in banks or mutual funds (once-sturdy institutions recently found by scientists to be hollow). The prudent have only the children they can afford — prudential parenthood is inevitably planned — but these offspring tend to thrive thanks to a stable home environment in which education is emphasized.

This threw me because the most financially prudent people I know at work are those with single incomes and large families

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14 Responses to Is "Planned" a Dirty Word for Catholics?

  • Well done. My wife and I got married at 22 right out of college. Due to some medical issues, we didn’t know if we’d be able to conceive and just figured whatever happened, happened. Two weeks later, doctors told my wife she wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Two weeks later we conceived.

    Our more cosmopolitan friends tripped over themselves asking if our son was planned. It only baffled them more when we said, “We didn’t really think about it.”

    Though it touches on a slightly different issue, I think the Epistle of James makes the same point you are making:

    “Come now, you who say ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business and make a profiit.’ You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead ou should say, ‘If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.’

    I think this is the same approach to take to raising a family.

  • Not long ago, American Spectator gave Strange New Respect Award to Conservative who curried Dem favor most in year- John McCain would win in heartbeat during ’08. Now a new kind of SNR Award to The American Orthodox Catholic Family. More than three kids, generally one income, no credit cards maxed out, making 10-year-old minivan last another year. Maybe you saw something on Drudge regarding Brit Catholic prelate going spastic on Disney Co. for reinforcing fantasized greed in children. Would ask the good father to chill and worry about more important stuff like terrorists killing children in hotels. But seems to make the point clear. But just when MSM will lionize these families, then scary facts come to forefront. Many homeschool the younguns. If it’s not EWTN, Veggie Tales, the occasional Disney DVD, the horrors of teevee do not imprint their young minds. Worst of all- horrors- Mom and Dad accept newborn sib as sign that God wants them to be fruitful and multiply. So maybe they’ll scrap that feature story in favor of something more gloom and doom.

  • I have to admit that even I’m not completely immune from the larger cultural mentality. My best friend just got married, and he and his wife immediately conceived (and I don’t think it was quite “planned”), and I was a bit surprised at first – and my wife and I were ones who did want to have children right off the bat (we had to wait a little longer, but thankfully not too long).

    That said, and maybe it’s the company I keep, but it does seem that it’s not completely alien anymore to express a desire for many children.

    Homeschooling, on the other hand, is a different story.

  • All of your children will be planned at least in this sense, that you waited until you were married to have them. By that standard the planning of even a couple who says “we will take however many God wants” exceeds the level of planning of a lot of folks.

  • It’s interesting. I have had similarly awkward conversations with law students recently. We are expecting our third child in May, and so the topic seems to come up quite a bit. I haven’t really mastered a short, pithy way to handle it at this point. Explaining the mechanics of NFP is not really a thirty-second conversation, and a vague reference to it yields blank, skeptical looks. With Christians one can reference about 19 centuries of consensus on the immorality of artificial contraception, however most people are not practicing Christians, and so any explanation of contraception/NFP/the nature of marriage has a lot of ground to cover. As regards the title of the post, I do not think ‘planning’ is a dirty word, but it certainly means something very different to practicing Catholics.

  • John Henry,

    Agreed. I was on the point of saying something along the lines of, “Well, Catholics don’t use birth control, but we do often use natural family planning to put off getting pregnant again for a while. So we plan, but it’s different.”

    But to my mental ear that sounded too much like “We don’t divorce, but we have annulments” or some other distinction which outsiders see as hyprocracy without a difference. I’m not sure what the good explanation is.

  • “Coworker (who had just been talking about how her “clock was ticking” but her boyfriend seemed in no hurry to propose): “I can’t believe you’ve got four kids already. Are you guys done?””

    Not to hijack the thread, but I am always amused at how ready people today are to discuss fairly intimate aspects of their life and expect other people to be equally willing to do so. Something big changed in our society circa 1965-70 and we are still working out the ramifications. In my profession I often have to be much more familiar with the personal aspects of my client’s lives than I would wish. When I first became an attorney I often had clients who would be hesitant to disclose personal details of their lives, even when such information was crucial in their case. Now I can be representing a client in some fairly innocuous matter, for example a minor traffic ticket, and it is surprising the number of them who feel compelled to tell me their life story, even when the information is not requested by me, and is not of utility in the case at hand.

  • Your co-worker’s observation that it’s the fear of hell (and so fear in general) that motives Catholics to have big families might best be countered not with detailed explanations of Catholic teaching, but rather with expressions of the happiness that often comes with each addition to the family.

  • Just chiming in from a stay-at-home mom’s point of view. Whenever I bring up NFP to friends, I get one of 2 responses: “what’s that?,” which is somewhat enjoyable to explain, and the…oh yeah that, well we use it and birth control so I know more about my body. It turns out that there are quite a few folks (other non-Catholic moms anyway) out there who know what NFP is, but they call it by a different name (e.g. ‘taking control of my fertility’).

    I don’t tend to run in predominately Catholic circles at the moment, so most of them don’t know anything about what Catholics believe. They are usually shocked that practicing Catholics don’t believe in birth control, and wonder what Catholic families do. I’ll admit I actually enjoy these conversations.

  • This is a tangential quote, but too juicy to resist.
    [Ivan] Illich told the story of asking his friend, Jacques Maritain, why the concept of “planning” did not appear in his philosophy. Puzzled, Maritain asked if “planning” was the English word for accounting. Illich answered, “No.” “Engineering?” “No.” Finally, Maritain understood. “Planning,” he said, “is a new variety of the sin of pride.”

    -Daniel Grego, Illich’s Table
    This is in the context of government or economic planning, though it certainly reminds us about pride and the need for humility in whatever we plan.

  • I was going to reply to this in a separate thread, but then I thought better of it and decided to just make my points here. When I talk to non-Catholics and/or Catholics who disagree with the Church on contraception, I usually frame the discussion in a certain way.

    I usually make the distinction that the Catholic Church does not oppose birth control per se—if we’re clear on what “birth control” really means. Any sort of “planning” in regard to family life presupposes a control, even if limited, over such matters. The problem arises, as I see it, out of the fact that what is usually referred to as “birth control” actually is birth prevention. This is what the Church opposes. Artificial contraception, as we all know, disrupts the natural fertility cycle and/or acts as a mean to entirely block the possibility of life being conceived—period. It is objectively against the sexual order. (You’ll have to explain why, of course; no need to go into it here).

    NFP is essentially a couple’s choice to, or not to, engage in marital sexual activity during the natural infertile periods of a woman for subjectively pure intentions of spacing of the birth of children and without closing God out of the marital act. This method (NFP) is in accord with God’s design of sexuality, the moral order, and man’s capacity to understand own physiological and reproductive powers and to choose a moral course of action accordingly. From scientific study, we know that NFP is 99.9% effective (same as birth control pills) without the side effects of artificial methods of birth control, and it fosters more intimacy and communication in marital relationships, not to mention a starkly lower divorce rate (1%).

    Darwin as you pointed out, there is a discomfort to use certain terminology because of the obvious contradiction that it seems to entail, e.g. we don’t have divorces, we have annulments. It’s sometimes hard to make that distinction. I think this is more common than we like to think it and it’s embedded in our culture. No good Catholic can be a feminist, that is, pro-woman. Right? Given that mentality (which I think is predominant), feminists easily present anything opposed to them as “anti-woman” and that’s how they accomplish so much. We’ve really got to steal our terms back!

    Is the term “planning” bad? Not at all. Though, we have to talk about it in terms of morality—intention, action, and object of the act. Why isn’t NFP like any other “birth control” method? What we usually call “birth control” redesigns fertility and locks the door of fertility—it is really protection (as it is called) from God. Man and woman deny their responsibility as co-creators with God explicitly whereas in NFP man and woman acknowledge this reality and take it so seriously that they wish to plan to embrace it fully. The former leads to casual, recreational sex and the contraceptive mentality—a divorce of procreation from unity in the sexual act as if both are not built in to the act inseparably; the other leads to the incarnation of the rich symbolism in man and woman in the human drama of salvation that reflects in the inner life of God Himself. One is sinful, the other is holy. The fundamental question that needs answering before this can be understood is what is the nature and end of human sexuality, particularly marital intercourse.

    I think it’s all about how one frames their argument and even more so, word choice.

    One last thing and it’s not directly related to the topic, but I think it draws a clearer picture and it really is just good food for thought. If married couples are a sacrament of the ultimate Bridegroom and Bride—Christ and the Church—then the sacrament is visible in the self gift of one to the other, which, of course is not possible with contraception. The marital act is, in a sense, the “work” of marriage, in the same way that the Eucharist is the “work” of the Christian liturgy. Every sacrament of the Church has a moment, in which God acts. The moment of conception wherein God creates new life is analogous to the consecration during Mass. In their own respective way, the sacraments are like doors through which God enters the world. The use of contraception then during the marital act is like a priest saying the prayers of the consecration with no bread or wine on the altar; this obviously robs the very action—the end trying to be achieved—of its meaning and defiles it. Ultimately, it closes the door on God in His very sacrament, which is why Catholics deem contraception to be a moral evil.

    I’ve found that this argument even to some non-Catholics have given them great pause, particularly when you bring to their attention that there is tendency to divorce sexuality from spiritual life. Is that not modernity? I’ve heard it said that the Church should give “spiritual” teachings and be less concerned with morality and sexual behavior. Why do people have this striking tendency?

    It seems to me that sexuality is so personal, so intimate a reality that it is the perfect place for the devil to begin his attempt to divide man from God. It is clear from Genesis that this is the case—after all, sexuality is not solely about sex itself.

    I think especially when Catholics disagree with the Church on contraception, which doesn’t help our dialogue with people not in the Church one must ask them a serious question. The Catholic Church is the visible sign of the New Covenant established by Jesus with His promise to be with her until the end of the world. Given this as true, Christ cannot be separated from His Church. Therefore, when one denies the teaching of the Church on marital acts, one denies the will of God. If Christ is not in your bedroom…who is?

  • I hope the inclusion of basic teaching on contraception to draw out my point doesn’t seem patronizing. I’m pretty sure we’re all clear on the teaching, I was just trying to draw connections.

  • What is clear from this post is that we all are presented on a regular basis with the opportunity to evangelize the world on the Church’s basic theology of the body. We need to get the message out there more and be more forth coming in discussing these personal topics, because you had better believe that ‘catholics for choice’ et al are getting their message out front and center. Now is not the time to be timid or mince words. When co-workers or other aquaintances bring up these topics it is our invitation to jump into the thick of it and educate.

    One thing that is often lacking is discussion of the very real ill affects of artificial contraception and sterilization. We have lost the public narrative on issues of sexuality and it will take a lot of courage and water cooler conversations to get it back.

  • You can’t evangelize those who have turned a deaf ear to the Truth. Even God Himself can’t work with someone who refuses to cooperate.

    In my experience, there are very few opportunities to evangelize about something as complex and, ultimately, transcendant as the Theology of the Body.

    Most people I know have experienced no ill side effects of contraception or sterilization. I’m not denying that the effects are objectively real and deleterious. What I am pointing out is that I don’t know anyone who is sterilized or contracepting who is unhappy about this, deems it a source of emptiness/misery/etc. in their life, and is in any way open to ToTB.

    I disagree that we need to discuss more, talk more, compete for attention in the marketplace of ideas.

    We need to preach the Gospel by our lives, using words only when necessary. And we need to accept that our “culture”, that of the post-Christian West, is lost and dying. It suffers the vices of ancient Rome, but does not hunger for the liberation of the Gospel. Our culture is, as C.S. Lewis noted, a divorcee, not a virgin.

    So count me in the camp opposed to the Water Cooler Evangelization, especially on topics such as sex.

To Pray, To Engage, and Fight Like a Maccabee.

Friday, November 21, AD 2008

I confess I am disappointed to see one of my colleagues at American Catholic dismiss the “Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama” as only so much “fruitless and pointless rhetoric”.

In response, permit me to explain what led to my own signature of the letter in question.

Readers of Catholics in the Public Square are no doubt aware that I have emphatically disagreed with Henry and those contributors at Vox Nova who supported Barack Obama throughout the 2008 election.

At the same time, to say Catholics shouldn’t have cast their vote for Obama is not the same thing as asserting that they were prohibited from doing so. This, at least, seems to be the conclusion drawn from the USCCB document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

Suffice to say I was among the those who did not believe a “grave moral reason” existed that warranted voting for Obama. And if some members of Vox Nova disagreed, I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt, and trust they thought about it as long and hard as my own decision to vote for Senator McCain.

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8 Responses to To Pray, To Engage, and Fight Like a Maccabee.

  • Christopher Blosser,

    I respect you more than you know. I also agree with most of your posting.

    I do want to say that if the letter emanated from an orthodox source say like Fr. Zuhlsdorf or even Mark Shea, I would not have regarded the “open letter” as fruitless and pointless.

    I want to say that the letter, because of the source that it is emanating from, is pretty much Dead On Arrival. Not that President-elect Obama would not respond positively, which I am sure you and I agree that he does, but basically that people such as Henry Karlson, Michael Deem, and their ilk have done everything possible (with some even advocating AND voting for Obama) to confuse Catholics, obfuscate the issues, and undermine the Faithful Citizenship document to the point of allowing faithful Catholics to be confused at best, disoriented at most.

    I also agree 100% with Dale Price, and I do pray often each day and for our new President-elect, that we as Catholics should engage in dialogue with our new President. But I do not believe the sincerity and genuiness of a certain group of Catholics that did the maximum possible harm to the efforts of preventing Senator Obama from being elected President of our great nation.

    Christopher, I do not doubt for one moment your sincerity and honesty or Fr. Z’s, Mark Shea’s, Deal Hudsons, and the many other orthodox Catholics that signed. You and the other orthodox Catholics did not do anything wrong, in my eyes.

    To those that misled the faithful, the following quotes from holy scripture come to mind:

    Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

    — Romans 1:22-23

    Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

    — Isaiah 5:20-24

    Again Christopher, I don’t fault you for you signing the document. I believe your sincerity to the fullest.

  • Christopher,

    I like the “fight like a Macabee” title. I heard it before from another poster on another blog. Is this a common refrain? If it is, I haven’t heard of it until recently.

    Again, I don’t discount the letter by itself, just that it came from certain Vox Nova bloggers, just seems very disingenuous to me coming from them.


  • Christopher,

    A very reasoned and fair engagement on your part.

    Your philosophical mentors are/would be proud, I am sure!

  • Still a nice letter. Always good to keep the door open until it gets slammed shut. If I could guess and I will that our President Elect will be totally preoccupied with ecnomic stuff and being the Wizard of Oz who suddenly makes everything better. Meaning- FOCA and Fairness Doctrine and that other messy stuff may get pushed to back of the attic. Of course this could change in blink of an eye. But still fun to speculate.

  • Wonderfully written Christopher; I agree entirely.

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  • A very charitable and reasoned post. Like you, I thought that the minority of bloggers at Vox Nova who supported Obama were wrong to do so, and I never missed an opportunity make that known in many of my posts there.

  • This is a cool blogging platform. Which is it?

A Call to Arms for God, Life, and Country

Friday, November 21, AD 2008

With the election of the most anti-life president in this nations history, Christians across America will soon be facing a daunting gauntlet of attacks on the sanctity of life.  We need to now follow Jesus more than ever, embrace His teachings, practice our faith, evangelize our friends and neighbors, and pray.  Pray and strive for prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance with faith, hope, and love.

st-michael-the-archangle-by-raphaelThis is spiritual warfare on a massive scale.  We need to win the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans in order to push back against evil.  What is at stake are unknown millions of innocents that will be slaughtered for Mammon’s sake.  Not since World War II and maybe even the French Revolution has human civilization been faced with such dark forces arrayed against it.  The time for fruitless and pointless rhetoric ended on November 4th.  We now cannot stand by the wayside and negotiate the nonnegotiables with those that intend to do harm to the most vulnerable among us.  No equivocating, no complacency, and no compromise.

Pray and fast for President-elect Obama and our glorious nation.

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13 Responses to A Call to Arms for God, Life, and Country

  • “We must make choices.”


  • Mahalo Tito for sharing! I’ve posted it on my blog and am sending it out to others.
    God bless,

  • I think it is unfair to call the open letter ‘pointless rhetoric’. Even if all it does is help people in the Catholic blogosphere focus more on FOCA, it will have done an important service. Additionally, it’s always possible that it will get picked up by a news outlet and help shape the discussion.

    I am skeptical that FOCA is a priority for the Obama administration, but if it does come up, it is very important that people call and write letters to their Congressional representatives. Raising awareness about FOCA is a good thing, and even if the open letter is not particularly successful, it is worth a small amount of effort at a chance of a larger payoff. To paraphrase Paschal, a potentially large payoff is worth a small expenditure of effort.

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  • Vox Nova invites the devil into their midst and then sends it a note asking the devil to not act devilish.

    The first act was foolish, the second is absurd. The letter is pointless when ‘point’ is understood to mean that which is directed to a final end. Because the letter has virtually no more chance of success as would a letter to the devil himself.

  • John Henry,

    I respect where you’re coming from and I understand why you feel the way you do. I am certainly one for constructive dialogue, but when the open letter comes from one that openly cooperates in disparaging and hindering the efforts of those wanting to end abortion, then I find it disingenuous at best.

    Christopher Blosser,

    Fr. Z may have signed it, but it is my opinion, not Fr. Z’s, that this open letter will help. But I want to reiterate that I do respect your feelings and thoughts on why the letter is important. Had it come from any other source, it would have had a different meaning to me and many others out there.

    But since it has eminated from a known anti-life blog such as Vox Nova (and yes, they are anti-life, when some bloggers openly endorse to vote for the most anti-life president in U.S. history), then it pretty much lost most, if not all, moral credibility.

    I don’t disparage those like Fr. Z, Deal, and yourself for signing it, but I do think it highly disingenous from the likes of Henry Karlson, Policraticus, and Michael Iafrate.


  • skeptical that FOCA is a priority? Obama has just recently appointed Ellen Moran (no pun intended) director of communications at the White House. She is exec director of ‘EMILY’s List’, a group that supports and promotes female candidates that are pro-abortion.

    the guy voted that a baby may be left to die when surviving an abortion attempt (in case you forgot). O is a monster

    Christ promised the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church. He never made such a promise to America.

    i hope i’m wrong but i think the prophesies of Akita, Japan 1973 may be coming true soon on American soil.

    i’ve made my choice – getting out of here. ay mate!

    it didn’t have to be this way but America has made her choice.

  • Superb to point this out about Ms. Moran. Much like the Department of Chicken Protection appointing Mr. Fox as Chief Security Guard. More like Moran is good Dem soldier getting sweet job and preoccupied with White House briefings, official statements, and babysitting Helen Thomas. As for splitting the scene…..come on….stay where the action is, Ed…….

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  • Dude get over yourself, he’s not anti – life he’s pro- choice. there is a large difference. its just that you guys are so caught up in your own beliefs, you don’t consider the rights and beliefs f your neighbors.

  • Razz,

    I’m not sure what you were trying to explain, but this is a free country and we Christians have fundamental rights in the constitution that allows us to practice our faith and exercise those rights.

    ‘Being caught up in our own beliefs’, I’m not sure what you were trying to express, but try again. Do you mean we aren’t allowed to express our opinion?

  • “you don’t consider the rights and beliefs f your neighbors.”

    Ah but that is the problem. Unborn children are our neighbors, our most weak and vulnerable neighbors, and it is unjust to allow them to be put to death.

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How Do You Turn a Culture

Monday, November 17, AD 2008

It has been widely observed that the only real way to achieve change on various issues which straddle the moral-legal-cultural arenas is by “changing the culture”.  Drawing from the past: although segregation was theoretically made illegal fairly early on in the civil rights movement, it was not until the cultural consensus swung heavily against segregation that it really started to vanish in practice.  Similarly, if dueling were suddenly made legal in the modern US, I rather doubt it would suddenly become frequent in social sets that are not already known for shooting each other — we have reached a cultural consensus that swords or pistols at first light are not an acceptable means of settling arguments.

Yet how does one change the cultural consensus on an issue such as abortion, the nature of marriage, etc.?

Moral conservatives are often accused of “only caring about political means” when it comes to dealing with the great moral controversies of the day. And yet the advantage of advocating change within the political arena is that it’s clear how one does it. How does one work to change the culture as regards to the acceptability of abortion? Or the morality of gay marriage? Or any of the other pressing questions which provide fodder for the “culture wars”.

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13 Responses to How Do You Turn a Culture

  • 1) Start locally. Teach your children well. They may not end up agreeing with you (as my sister disagrees with my parents quite a bit on issues of sexuality and culture), but one of the biggest reasons for falling into the trap of the secular culture is not having a firm grasp on why particular things are wrong.

    2) Don’t alienate people who have different views. Accept them as people, and find ways to converse with them. I have a few friends that are quite liberal minded about sexuality, and it has been a joy to be able to talk with them, even knowing we both agree. The best we can really hope for is set the message out there. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

    3) Participate in social gatherings in the church. Maybe even try to start one of your own. It helps to keep the faithful faithful.

    4) Try to discuss with people the notion of: “It’s not how much I can get away with, but how good I can be.” This message can be applied anywhere from speeding, to downloading music (illegally) from the internet, to sexuality, and so on. The first part, the “how much can I get away with” is concupiscence talking. Try to stress that the slippery slope is, indeed, slippery. The second part, “how good can I be” is just practical. It means: not paying speeding tickets, more on car insurance, or any medical bills from accidents. It means: not having to hide anything from scrutiny. It certainly means: I don’t have to worry that she’ll come knocking on my family’s door with evidence of our indiscretion.

    5) Pray. Always always always always pray. God still works miracles in the hearts of men.

  • After having one too many pre-election Internet conversations with women who said they were Catholic and pro-choice (and voted for Guess Who), I thought a lot about this. With my wife and I not being able to add to our already ample brood, the 2 thoughts converged. If I adopted (and snatched that baby away from a pro-choice couple) I could add to the pro-life ranks. If a lot of Catholics did this we could change the culture. Catholics own the life issue and they are also the most generous when it comes to family size. If we could only be more generous and giving when it comes to adoptions and open our homes to those who are genetically not our own (not easy) , we could supply the pro-life cause a net benefit. I have yet to put my money where my mouth is but such are my thoughts as of late.

  • “What do you think are the most important means of “changing the culture” on the “culture war” issues?”

    I think Ryan covers most of the bases. For a variety of different reasons, the U.S. has never been a particularly Catholic culture; Catholicism has always cut against the individualist ethos that undergirds many of the culture war debates. The best way that we can work for change is to try to ensure that we are well-formed in and committed to our Faith. Social change is often instigated by dedicated communities of individuals or sub-cultures. We should work to form sub-cultures and communities which challenge and invite the broader community.

    At the same time, the success of our efforts is ultimately out of our control. Not many observers foresaw that just over fifty years after Brown v. Board of education we would be electing our first African-American President, but that the institution of marriage would be floundering. Cultural change is unpredictable, but we should nevertheless be prepared to take advantage of all available opportunities to protect the dignity of human life.

  • While I basically agree with the point that the best thing we can do is grow a healthy and self-reproducting sub-culture which passes on and lives out our beliefs — it strikes me that many people would find that answer overly complacant.

    “We’re suffering unprescidented slaughter of our most vulnerable, and the deconstruction of basic cultural institutions — and all you want to do is ignore it and raise our families?” might go the objection, strongly put.

    Maybe one of the basic illusions of a mass society is that if we’re not doing something that will somehow move our entire nation of 300 million people, we’re not doing anything.

    Still, I think the basic hunger is for answers on how to move the whole ship of state.

  • “Still, I think the basic hunger is for answers on how to move the whole ship of state.”

    I am sympathetic to the complaint, but I think it is borne of impatience and a particular type of laziness (not from you). It is hard work to build sub-cultures, to engage in dialogue, to patiently explain errors and distortions of your position. It is hard and discouraging work to support very flawed candidates in the hope (it’s not just for Obama supporters) that some progress will be made.

    A friend of mine just spent eight years in the Bush administration working to push forward the pro-life agenda in various ways with some modest success and many failures, and now a new administration will come in and undo most of what he’s worked to do. It would be nice if there was an easy solution that would make these difficulties go away, but I don’t think there is.

  • I agree with Ryan. I think living the Gospel in many respects is planting the seed for greatness.

  • I have long been an advocate of the points outlined above by Ryan Harkins.

    It struck me some years ago that using the tactics of Leftist agit-prop to engender a political/legal solution was to put too much faith in the powers of this world. Powers that, I don’t have to remind anyone here, are controlled by the Enemy.

  • “Maybe one of the basic illusions of a mass society is that if we’re not doing something that will somehow move our entire nation of 300 million people, we’re not doing anything.”

    I think this is right, and we should recognize it can be a benefit as well: there are quite a few people people anxious to influence all 300 million of us who I am quite glad have very limited influence.

  • I agree with Ryan and John… we need to be patient and recognize that all we can do is, well, all we can do. I think it’s not only more authentically Catholic but more authentically conservative to “go local” and look to what kind of impact we can have in our parishes, neighborhoods, school districts, etc. It certainly isn’t easy, and its fruits aren’t nearly as quickly or readily apparent as are those of political/legal action, but — by and large — they are longer-lasting.

    Concretly, how do we do this? DC, I recall a comment you made about helping your local SVdP chapter, which was in turn helping people pay their utilities, mortgages, etc…. I think we need to do things like this: work on building up deep and abiding parish communities that intentionally strive to engage at every level and in every sector of local society & culture. I happen to think that small faith sharing communities (think “base communities” out of Latin American, minus the off-target liberation theology) which have service & missionary components are one great way to go… we’ve got Advent coming up… maybe we can propose something like this in our parishes.


  • It might also help a little to have national leaders spearhead a national dialogue over the contentious cultural issues.

  • With all due respect, Kyle, what exactly is a “national dialogue”? Individuals can have a dialogue, but I don’t understand how a nation can.

  • While I basically agree with the point that the best thing we can do is grow a healthy and self-reproducting sub-culture which passes on and lives out our beliefs — it strikes me that many people would find that answer overly complacant.

    Well, my points are certainly a place to start and not comprehensive by any means. And it is certainly important that we realize that we can always do more. The problem, though, is that we can’t ignore these seemingly smaller points. These are fundamental and have to come first.

    I know for myself that there’s a danger in wanting to focus on shifting the prevailing opinion of the whole nation. There’s a pride issue (or more specifically, an ego issue). If I can’t make a huge impact, why bother? Patience is a key when fighting this culture war, but we also need to be humble. We’re striving against a force, a predilection, that has been in place since the Fall and has persevered through the rise and fall of nation, through endless philosophers, theologians, and prophets, through the come of Christ Himself and the foundation of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that we’re fighting a losing battle, or that we can’t make any gains, but it is important to keep in mind the magnitude of what we’re fighting against.

    I find it especially humbling to read about the history of Israel, in how, generation after generation the Jews rebelled against God, and how generation after generation God sent prophets to warn and invasion, plagues, and other disasters to chastise them. To our modern perspective, it is easy to roll our eyes at the foolishness of God’s chosen people, but we face the same dilemmas today. The sexual revolution is nothing new. It is concupiscence finding a toehold once again. The greediness of the wealthy, the flaunting of established tradition, the embracing of foreign and pagan religions–it has all been around before and will return in the future.

    In some respect, the Jews were fortunate, because they had God’s wrath dropping on them generation after generation, twitching them back onto the straight and narrow. For the most part, it seems we merely get to reap what we have sown.

    This is why no one should consider the small points of catechizing our children and evangelizing our fellow Catholics as complacency in the larger issue. First, it they are things we can do, and second, they are things we must do. Third, there is a real danger in wanting to focus only on the larger issue–the widespread cultural decay we’re all very aware of–because there is the desire to have one, quick fix that sets everything aright so that we can then get back to our humdrum lives.

  • Fair point, Darwin. Sloppy wording on my part. Anyhow, what I vaguely have in mind in speaking of a “national debate” is making use of modern media technology to broadcast actual debates, and I mean actual debates, among leaders and well-known personalities of movements defending or advancing cultural agendas. I imagine the best defenders of a viewpoint sitting down with the best defenders of alternative viewpoints for televised debates. If nothing else, it might expose people to arguments they haven’t heard before.

FOCA meet the USCCB

Wednesday, November 12, AD 2008


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made fighting against the Freedom of Choice Act a high priority in their current meeting.  The Catholic Church and the incoming Obama administration are on a  collision course in regard to abortion.  For every American Catholic the choice couldn’t be starker:  which side are you on?

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3 Responses to FOCA meet the USCCB

  • The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

    Will our shepherds lay down their life for their sheep, or will they flee and leave us to the wolves?

    For decades they’ve acted as hired hands and squandered their authority.

    How many will see this through, and give their all so that, martyred their witness may provide the moral authority to their successors that they received from so many of their predecessors?

  • About time. For too many years, our shepherds tapdanced around controversy. They allowed most official documents to be wrapped around the blanket labelled Social Justice. When none of the sort meted out to around 50 million unborn children. Now awake, they speak pretty boldly for such an august body. Hope they’re ready for whatever level of persecution may be dished out by the new administration. So they were going to avoid that abortion/election/citizenship stuff at this meeting. Events dictated otherwise.

  • Pray for our bishops.

Cardinal George Issues Congratulations & Challenge to Obama

Monday, November 10, AD 2008

John Allen provides an encouraging report on Francis Cardinal George’s remarks as USCCB president regarding the election of Senator Obama to the presidency:

Cardinal Francis George, speaking this morning as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said all Americans should “rejoice” that a country which once tolerated slavery has elected an African-American as president – and, in the same breath, he issued a blunt challenge to the new administration on abortion.

“If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons, were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be President of the United States,” George said.

“Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good,” he said.

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3 Responses to Cardinal George Issues Congratulations & Challenge to Obama

Defend Marriage. Defend Life. Protect the Future.

Monday, November 3, AD 2008

Readers in California, please don’t forget that as you attempt to chose a pro-Life candidate for President of the US you are also being called to defend marriage by voting Yes on Proposition 8. Whether they are beloved friends, co-workers or relatives, we all probably all know gays and lesbians that we love and care deeply about; many of them may be in long-term loving relationships. But let’s not fool ourselves, a “marriage” between two people of the same sex is not a marriage in Christ. It is not love in the way Christ called us to love one another and the more we head down this path of destroying the institution of marriage, the further we move down the road to our own destruction as a society.

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11 Responses to Defend Marriage. Defend Life. Protect the Future.

  • The only problem I foresee with an affirmative vote on Proposition 8 is that it warrants the marriage of a transgender male and a transgender female. Under Prop 8, such a “marriage” would be “valid” and “recognized” in California.

    We must be wary of accepting transgender marriages because transgender people are disgusting and morally reprehensible. Voting “Yes” on Prop 8 will promote transgender marriages and a disgusting and messy alternative lifestyle. So, an affirmative vote on Prop 8 will encourage transgender marriages.

  • Made recent trip to Southern California. Turned on local teevee news soon as the bags were dumped in hotel room closet. Assaulted by blasts of Prop 6 this and Prop 10 that and stuff from Mexico will poison children. Turned off tube, went to dinner. But glad to see the Prop 8 forces spending oodles of coin on those commercials. Did I see rumor that His Eminence Cardinal Mahony wrote check for 1 million for Pro-Prop 8 effort. A stopped clock is right 2x daily.

  • Actually, no, I’m not a “troll” (and I’m not a plumber or Joe “six-pack” either) but I am very concerned with recent Catholic support for fringe legislation, such as Prop 8 in CA and Amend 48 in CO. It seems fewer and fewer Catholics — especially bishops and cardinals — are thinking about the obvious implications of legislating morality.

    But if “Joe is a troll” has something more useful and substantive to say than just toss slanders toward fellow Catholics concerned with highly questionable legislation, then I’d be happy to hear it! The problem is that you’ve not thought about such implications; have you? Let me pose the question again: What should be done about marriage between two people who are transgender?

    Since you probably won’t be able to fill out the argument, let me. You might think that Prop 8 should be replaced with stronger language: marriage should be between a natural man and a natural woman. Of course the problem is in defining “natural,” because so many people engage in cosmetic surgery over the course of their lifetime. It would be hard to say that a person who has “whitened” their teeth is natural, because natural seems to imply something about not having engaged in some form of cosmetic enhancement. We all have done something to improve ourselves, so it seems like we cannot conceive of natural in this way.

    One might think that natural implies something about being able to bear children. Of course we’d have to extend legislation to legitimize those couples who can no longer bear children, i.e., the elderly. Also, we’d have to accommodate those couples where one or more of the spouses have health problems preventing them from bearing children. Given the way that the Catholic Church has been going recently, you may think that these folks shouldn’t marry _because_ they cannot bear children. Basically, the gist of the Catholic Church’s message has been if you can’t procreate, don’t marry. So, the view that natural implies something about being able to bear children might have greater merit among Catholics.

    The problem I tried to raise in my original post had nothing to do with accepting, endorsing, or condoning same-sex marriage (read it again if you think it does). In fact, I don’t think the state should legislate marriage. I suspect, however, that is how “Joe is a troll” took it.

    I do think there are significant problems with the Prop 8 legislation when we set aside our views of same-sex marriage. Anyone who can think for themselves (rather than relying on what they read in propaganda flyers and the liberal media) would be able to comprehend this with some careful thought.

    I’d like to hear some alternatives to Prop 8 before permitting the state to dictate what is morally acceptable and morally unacceptable.

  • Joe,

    Don’t you think the state overturning the people’s will and declaring what is moral and immoral not imposing their will on the people?

  • Tito,

    I was going to say the same thing. Isn’t the judiciary legislating morality in this instance by forcing us to accept gay marriage as a right? And besides: of course the state can legislate morality! What do you think it’s doing with all those laws against murder?

    Prop. 8 is actually pretty modest in that it makes no claim on the morality of homosexual unions or relationships. It just reinforces the definition of marriage that we already understood and didn’t need redefined by the judiciary.

    In that sense, I agree wholeheartedly with Joe — we shouldn’t even have to be voting on this kind of thing! It’s only because we’ve been put in this position by a rights-inventing judiciary that we have to do it.

  • Tito, did I rule that out somewhere along the line? I don’t think I did. I grant that activist judges brought on the current situation. But the situation has arisen and we have contend with it. To not contend with it is to give in to those commie liberal yellow-bellies.

    j. christian, I don’t think that “reinforcing a definition of marriage” has nothing to do with morality. Also, what’s the definition of marriage? I think people have a hard time accepting the definition as it is outlined in Prop. 8. Polygamists certainly will have a hard time with it, though they seem to be upholding a form of marriage consistent with Prop. 8 (you just have to add a few more women to the mix). Defining marriage in any way is legislating morality.

    And, of course you’re right that we shouldn’t be voting on this kind of measure. It doesn’t belong in a state or country’s constitution at all.

  • One can argue that the state should not be in the business of defining marriage, but since the state deals with marriages already (property rights, divorces, tax implications, etc.) and the courts in CA have not imposed a definition of marriage which is patently false, I can only see it as making it better to pass an initiative defining it more in keeping with what marriage actually is.

  • “the courts in CA have not imposed a definition of marriage which is patently false,”

    Not to nitpick, but did you mean ‘now’ rather than ‘not’.

  • Joe & J. Christian,

    I understand and appreciate your responses.

    I still think that the judicial branch, being forced by liberal activists, brought this upon themselves by trying to impose their (im)morality on the state.